Community energized in opposition to plan

Andrea Rose
Janet Pollard, director of the Franklin County Visitors Bureau, left, and Stephanie Reed, a Stop Transource volunteer, talk to residents Monday at the Chambersburg Area Middle School South.

Nearly 100 residents from across Franklin County turned out Monday evening for a strategy session on how to stop a proposed overhead power transmission line project.

Volunteers from the group Stop Transource in Pennsylvania and Maryland presented a slideshow of what the proposed towers would look like on the local landscape.

Keryn Newman, who was instrumental in stopping the Path, West Virginia, power line project, shared her experience fighting a PJM Interconnection project. "We mounted a campaign against the power line and, eventually, we won," Newman said.

Newman said it took her group six years of fighting before finally defeating the power company.

"This project will be a heavy burden for all of us to carry, even if it's not on your land," said Lori Rice, whose farm homestead will be affected by the project.

"There are 140 parcels of land on the route directly affected by the right-of-way. There are nearly 500 parcels near the route, many of whom will face an economic impact for which they have no redress under eminent domain law," explained Karri Benedict, a Stop Transource organizer.

Concerns about the economic effect of the project were top-of-mind Monday night.

"There will be a decrease in property values," Rice said. "Who will want to buy a property that has giant power towers going through it?"

But it isn't just real estate that stands to be affected, they said.

"Tourism in Franklin County brings in $325 million a year and is very strongly about agri-tourism, festivals, fresh food, open space and recreation. This really is central to what draws people to Franklin County," said Janet Pollard, director of the Franklin County Tourism Bureau. "We are very strongly opposed to situating the Transource Independent Energy Connection Project through virgin view shed and agricultural production land. It's not just a year or however long it takes to build it. It will have a long-term and far-reaching negative impact on the entire tourism industry of Franklin County for perpetuity."

Residents also raised concern about the safety of livestock and residents, particularly in areas such as Falling Spring Elementary School, where the proposed high voltage line will cross the site.

Newman and Rice urged concerned residents to volunteer their time or donate money to help fund ongoing efforts to raise awareness of the project.

"There are many ways to oppose this project," Newman said. "I challenge you to put your skills and experience to work. See how you can help."

For ways to help, visit www.stoptransourcepa.org.

Rice urged residents to contact their local government officials to encourage them to voice their opposition to the project. "Email, call or visit your elected officials. Remind them if they can't take the time to listen to the people who put them in office, they may not be put back in office."

"I'm here gathering information on behalf of Quincy Township. Nobody is in support of this project," said Travis Schooley. "We have contacted every state legislator. We're frustrated. We don't feel like we have the tools we need to stop this, but we're gonna do what we can."

"Some people say you can't fight city hall. That's last century thinking," Newman said. "We don't need these lines. I think Transource is beatable."

"It doesn't matter where this line lands, our goal is to defeat it," Rice said.