PUC rejects PPL's attempt at eminent domain in lower Northumberland County
HARRISBURG - Two administrative law judges from the state Public Utility Commission (PUC) made a recommendation to deny nine applications of eminent domain filed by PPL Electric Utilities, including seven properties in Lower Mahanoy Township, Northumberland County.
The ruling pleased rural landowners who are fighting PPL's plans for a new transmission line, while PPL said Friday it will appeal.
"We thank the judges for listening to the community and property owners," Roy Maurer, of Dalmatia, said in a statement he distributed to local media on behalf of the landowners involved. "In our opinion," he said, the judges "reached the proper and rightful decision."
PPL disagrees and will file exceptions by the Monday deadline, spokesman Paul Wirth said Friday.
"We are urging the PUC to approve the applications because this project is needed by the customers in that area," he said.
PUC deputy press secretary Denise McCracken confirmed Friday that administrative law judges David A. Salapa and Joel H. Cheskis made a recommendation last month to deny the applications. McCracken said PUC couldn't comment on the recommendation because the case remains in litigation.
In their Dec. 19 recommendation, the judges state, "In summary, PPL has failed to satisfy its burden to demonstrate that the proposed Richfield-Dalmatia 69 KV transmission line and the Meiserville substation are necessary for the service, accommodation, convenience or safety of the public. We recommend, therefore, that PPL's applications be rejected."
In addition to the Northumberland County properties, PPL filed applications for eminent domain for one property in Perry Township, Snyder County, and another in Susquehanna Township, Juniata County.
PPL filed the applications in October 2011. Shortly thereafter, protests and objections were filed against PPL's applications by all nine property owners.
More than 20 people testified in defense of the landowners at a public hearing conducted by the PUC on March 7 at Hickory Corners and Community Fire Company. At the time, PPL had already reached a financial settlement with 45 of 54 residents affected by the proposed line.
Maurer said, "We had a lot of community support and encouragement throughout the past few years including friends, neighbors and church groups. We couldn't have survived without them."
In a pre-hearing memorandum to determine the acquirement of right-of-way and easement, dated Dec. 9, 2011, the nine people declining any settlement with PPL were listed as Michael and Logan Wendt, of Duncannon; Marvin and Leona Hess, of Liverpool; and Randall Clark, John and Evelyn Zeiders, Roy and Cindy Maurer, Ronald and Dianna Mace, Gary and Dorene Lahr, Elija and Fay Lahr, and the Shoop Family Trust, all of Dalmatia.