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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Big Coal: The Real Reason Why PPL Wants Those Power Lines

"Damn the carcinogens, full speed ahead!"

PPL is coming through, baby. It's laying down a new power line from Berwick, PA to Roseland, NJ, cutting a 200' wide path over a 100 mile distance in PA. There's little we can do to stop this Giant Energizer Bunny, either. Let's say our state regulators in the PUC, by some miracle, actually dare to say no. PPL can simply run to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and get eminent domain powers.

PPL tells us this is for our own good because it will prevent blackouts and power overloads. I don't know about you, but I haven't noticed any blackouts here in the Lehigh Valley. Not even a brownout. In fact, Pennsylvania is actually an exporter of electricity.

Since who's the real beneficiary?

Big Coal, baby. The Black Gods. The same bastards who killed most of my relatives in the coal regions. The lucky ones died in mine collapses. Many more suffered for years with black lung disease. It has killed thousands, devastating the environment in the process, making much of the coal regions look like a barren wasteland. But Big Coal is back, baby, hotter and darker than ever. Each American now consumes twenty pounds of coal every day, just to keep those air conditioners and toasters hummin'.

After all, it's patriotic. Big Coal will free us from Big Oil and those dirty Arabs. PPL will be expanding electricity generation at its coal-fired Washingtonville plant near Berwick. And guess what? It just dumped $600 million into the site for new scrubbers and a drywall factory.

It's not all bad news. After all, we do get to pick one of three routes for this 500 KV line. PPL even created a web page so we can play engineer and NIMBYs can argue with each other. But there's no real choice. What this power company is doing is just like giving a prison inmate three choices on a brand of Vaseline. No matter what route is chosen, we're going to get screwed.

Attorney Wil Burns, who represents the Sierra Club, believes these power lines are a mistake for the following reasons: (1) wasted energy (when electricity is shipped over long distances, it loses ten per cent of its power); (2) security (those dirty Arabs will slice the lines and force us to buy Big Oil); (3) higher electricity costs (who do you think will be paying for those power lines?); and (4) air pollution (coal-fired generators contribute three-fifths of all sulfur dioxide, one-third of all mercury, and one-fifth of all nitrogen oxide emissions in the United States).

I have another concern. Although energy officials deny that high voltage lines present a health hazard, the reports I've seen about childhood leukemia and cancer are shocking. I'd like to hear from someone who has no financial interest in this matter.

A grassroots movement of citizens from Lehigh and Moore Township is mobilized, and has already established a blog, DroptheLines, to oppose PPL's greedy scheme "to maximize profits by taking advantage of a poor decision by the Department of Energy that favors the profit of a large company over the well-being of Pennsylvania’s residents and favors coal and nuclear power over clean alternatives."

Tonight, between 5 and 8 PM, PPL's latest money-making attempt will be presented at Northampton Community Center, 1601 Laubach Ave., Northampton, PA 18067.


Anonymous said...

The paranoia of all things nuclear is just that. And now we come to this point where we continue to accept a certain number of deaths from coal fired plants vs. a demonstrably safer, cleaner alternative.

Just as today's global warming Nazis are so cock sure and over reactive about their extrapolations of 150 years of weather data on a 4.5 billion year old planet, so was the crowd that chased our nuclear technology to western Europe and sentenced hundreds or thousands to death by coal fired plant.

hayshaker said...

favors coal and nuclear power over clean alternatives.

You don't get much cleaner than nuclear. Ask France.

tinkerbell said...

if i could figure out how, i'd invent the most affordable and efficient solar power system so that every home, building, automobile...everything... in the country could own and operate them; thus ending all dependence on foreign oil, coal, PP&Ls, MetEds, etc.

of course, then the prez would probably come with an entourage and assassinate me.

Orly said...

Bernie...why do you lump the 600 million dollar investment into scrubbers in the "bad" category?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Orly, the reason for that is I don't know hjow much of that $600 MM actually went into scrubbers and how much went into expanding generating capacity.

Like Tinkerbell notes, we need to be focused on renewable sources for future energy needs, not fossil fuels. We need to decentralize, whjich will actually make power supply more stable. I'd even agree w/ Hayshaker about nuclear energy, but would like to know a lot more about the radioactive waste. France does seem to have an answer.

Orly said...

(1) wasted energy (when electricity is shipped over long distances, it loses ten per cent of its power);

Huh? What a bogus statistic! What constitutes a long distance? Hell, If I send power over a 6000 mile line, I'll lose like 100% of the power. If I send it like 400 miles, I lose very little if I shoot it over a high voltage. In fact, the higher the voltage, the lower the loss. This is why PPL is proposing a higher voltage line.

(2) security (those dirty Arabs will slice the lines and force us to buy Big Oil);

"Ohno! The A-rabs cut our lines! Ohwell...too bad we don't know how to put new wire up and restore connections. Ohwait! We do!" Slice this line and power would be flowing again within hours. Are we not supposed to use electricity because the A-rabs might cut a line? Ok, then. Back to my coal stove and mule. And I guess I shiould never fly again, or go into Manhattan or the Pentagon. Or walk around a dam. Or eat falafel.

Someone needs their tinfoil hat resized.

(3) higher electricity costs (who do you think will be paying for those power lines?);

Aha...yes. This could be a factor. We locals could get charged rates bumped by NJ/NY pricing. But you could always not buy generation from PPL. Hmmm...even with rate jumps they will be cheaper...dang!

and (4) air pollution (coal-fired generators contribute three-fifths of all sulfur dioxide, one-third of all mercury, and one-fifth of all nitrogen oxide emissions in the United States).

Yes. Coal does indeed suck. But with no other plants being built, what's the option? The US has been too scared (uneducated?) to build nuclear, and now because of fad-driven public interest, companies are being pushed into non-base load renewables, which, by necessity, require base load backup...which is almost always coal. This is why utilities are investing billions in scrubbers.

Sheesh Bernie. Read up on stuff before you parrot the uneducated and agenda'd.

Orly said...

Bernie...trust me...the 600 million went to scrubbers and efficiency upgrades. All having the final effect of more power for less work and less pollutants.

I guess I'm showing my hand here...

Bernie O'Hare said...


That's ok. Tell you what. I plan on going to tonight's meeting so I can post more ignorant stuff. You seem to be knowledgable, so why not send me an essay about why this is a good thing? I'll post it. My email is BOHare5948@aol.com. You can make up a bogus email account from which to send your essay.

I need more than your assurances that ALL that money wnet into scrubbers or these long 150 mile (in PA & NJ) don't lose power or that it really is safe.

I'll see what I can learn tonight.

donmiles said...


I'm on the board of the Lehigh Valley Group of the Sierra Club and we oppose this boondoggle for the coal and electric utility industries. Besides endangering priceless open space and sensitive natural areas (including the Appalachian Trail), this massive transmission line is not needed -- we have more than enough electric power in the existing transmission system but the utilities refuse to properly maintain the existing lines or to efficiently regulate long-distance power transmission (big power transfers from different utilities smash into each other along the system because each utility transmits without coordination with the others).

For a detailed explanation of why this line should not be built, see the following (a brief filed with the PUC on behalf of the Energy Conservation Council of Pennsylvania -- their website is here: http://www.energyconservationcouncil.org/):

brief filed with PUC:

You can read why we just need to fix the existing power transmission grid here:

Folks all along the route of this line are organizing against this mess:

Orly said...

And yes, nuke is the answer. No longer as cheap as it once was, but certainly the answer going forward.

Solar and wind are great...but they cannot meet the needs of current customers alone and they require base-load backup (typically coal) and standby peaker plants (typically gas and deisel). Their supposedly $0 cost to operate is greatly offset by these plants.

In Texas, T Boone Pickens is building a windfarm. His windfarm will output (at 100% capacity) the same amount as PPL's Berwick nuke plant, about 4,000 megawatts. Berwick occupies something like 50 acres, and can run at 98% capacity for over months straight. That's reliable power at 80 megawatts per acre. The wind farm occupies 220,000 acres and will reliably produce maybe half of its peak output. That's 0.009 of a megawatt per acre.

So...go find me 220,000 open, non NIMBY acres to drop a windfarm anywhere in the northeast and I'll reliably produce as much power as a nuke plant with a reactor shut down. Not an answer.

Orly said...


I don't know enough about these lines to know if they are needed or not, so I can't defend nor condemn them. Nor do I really know much about the health implications.

My point is if people want to fight this, they need to have a real argument that can be backed up. A good portion of the crap that SC guy stated won't hold up against any amount of logic on its own.

Orly said...


Wow. There's this thing called the PJM Interconnection, which manages power in most of the NE. So yes, there is managed interoperability on the grid.

Secondly...power cannot "smash" into other power. Power has to be generated to meet consumption...you cannot put more power on the grid than can be consumed within approximately 2 seconds. If someone puts too much power on the grid, they will be dropped back or completely shut off.

Joe Hilliard said...

Everyone complains about energy prices....

A vast majority oppose any expansion of energy production....

We are a dysfunctional society.

We need reasonable energy production increases. This includes transmission line increases. Yes, the Lehigh Valley has not had major blackouts. However, remember those recent NYC blackouts? Because the grid is overloaded with little to no redundancy. These lines are probably being built for that specific reason - NYC.

The worship of alternative fuels is almost a religion based only on faith.

Orly's comments are correct. Wouldn't the Sierra Club and other groups oppose huge arrays of windmills or solar panels?

Ethanol has been a disaster.

Renewable energy sources will supply about 20% of energy needs in the future. But they are not economical today. I looked into solar panels for my house. I would have a 20 year payback - even with government money - which is still 'my/our' money.

Till then, we need oil, coal, and nukes.

I love nature and agree that there must be an advocacy effort to reasonably preserve nature.

I also need energy and think that there must be a reasonable effort to expand energy production based on existing, reliable, relatively inexpensive fuel.

Anonymous said...

i would gladly trade the integrity of a few miles of the appalachian train for more dependable and cheaper.

i challenge environmentalists to re-evaluate the same thinking they had when oil was $30/barrell.

Anonymous said...

Tinkerbell said "If I could figure out how..."

I'm all for alternative energy (solar, geothermal, wind, etc.) for all the reasons outlined in these postings. But let's face facts gang, alternate sources are decades away from being truly viable alternatives.

We need to make substantial investments in nuclear energy, and we need to do it now.

Nuclear power does not address Bernie's issue of the power lines, decentralization, stability, etc. which are all valid. If we go more nuclear then those lines will also be a fact of life for decades to come.

Does anyone honestly think energy demand will decrease, or at worst stay the same? We can't make decisions based on that very faulty premise, nor can we assume that we're close to viable alternative energy. We're still a long way off. We need to focus intently on getting there, but also do what we need to do while we're getting there.

Bernie O'Hare said...


I inadverdently left a comment for you on another blog, thanking you for the links. I will read them after tonight's meeting.

Anonymous said...

Wind farms are open space hogs and an inefficient blight. Where's the Sierra Club on nuclear power?

donmiles said...

Orly, I directed you to websites with facts, not "crap" (a thoughtful retort, by the way).
Where's your facts, sir ?
To refute just one non-fact you cite: the PJM doesn't "manage" power generation, it monitors it. It is a voluntary association with no legal teeth to compel utility behavior and no mechanism to regulate power flows along the lines from different utilities. You could look it up . . .

SPIKE ROGAN From Easton,PA said...

"Wind farms are open space hogs and an inefficient blight. Where's the Sierra Club on nuclear power?"

When you can make a statement on the matter with out plagerising Rush Limbaugh and Bobby Gunther Walsh. Come back!

And to all you reich wing pukes, who throw up the lame inaccurate talking points some "Radio Personality" tells you over crackly AM radio.

France is a joke, just because someone dosn't support the Uber Reich Wing Libertarian bussiness men here in the states does not make us fans of France, Ted Kennedy, or Mr Bean.

Get your head out from where the sun dosn't shine. And enjoy the well lit area folks who read enjoy called daylight. It even creates power for your home and helps your food grow.

Bernie O'Hare said...


Both liberal and conservativew thinking people are welcome to comment here. My hope is we can learn from each other bc neither side has all the answers.

I like your humor, but would appreciate a little more respect for differing points of view. Inflammatory phrases like "reich wing" are counterproductive. You launched a series of insults without offering one fact. This tactic just diminishes you, and I know you're much better than that.

Beware the dark side.

Orly said...

donmiles...re: PJM. I did look it up. Every article I've found regarding PJM, their own website...all state PJM manages flow.

And I believe I stated Wil Burns was spouting "crap", not you.

And I didn't look at those websites because they look a bit biased and spun. I'll try to look later.

Anonymous said...

let's not stray from an overriding point; environmentalist policies are among the most damaging to our environment.

"split wood not atoms"?...would turn our forests into lunar surfaces.

Anonymous said...

Easy answer for everyones energy crisis concerns....USE LESS POWER, learn to shut lights off or run the air conditioner a little bit less. maybe turn the hot water heater down a few degrees, or get a tankless heater. If everyone found ways to make themselves a little more energy efficient we wouldn't have these issues about burning too much coal or getting more high voltage lines, LEARN TO CONSERVE!!!