A Power Struggle on the Delaware


Delaware River, DE, NJ, NY, PA

Delaware River, DE, NJ, NY, PA | Nicholas Tonelli

In 2007, American Rivers highlighted the Upper Delaware River on our list of America’s Most Endangered Rivers® [PDF] because it was threatened by a massive power line through the Wild and Scenic River.   Then again in 2010, the Upper Delaware appeared at the top of the list due to the threat of natural gas development in the watershed. 

A constant push-pull has continued amongst Delaware River Basin states over balancing impacts to the environment and the health of area residents with the need to power the northeast corridor of the U.S.  Regulators and communities across the region ponder important questions such as:

  • Considering all the factors, which is worse- coal or natural gas?
  • If coal is worse, should we turn to natural gas until a cleaner energy source can meet the demand?
  • Which is more important for the community to consider- economic impacts or health risks?
  • What level of disturbance or risk is acceptable to meet the power needs of the population? 
  • How do we minimize that disturbance or risk and what is the cost to the community?

Difficult questions to be sure.

In the meantime, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) continues to ponder their proposed regulations for natural gas development in the watershed- as does the state of New York.  A recent lawsuit against the DRBC challenging compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was dismissed without prejudice because the regulations had not yet been finalized.

The Susquehanna-Roseland power transmission line, however, was recently approved by the National Park Service.  The project involves building 200 foot tall towers through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Middle Delaware National Scenic and Recreational River, and Appalachian National Scenic Trail.  A coalition of national, regional, and local conservation organizations have consequently filed suit to challenge the approval of the project.  The challengers claim that the National Park Service did not fulfill its stated mission to prevent impairment to park resources. 

How do we power America while protecting our environment?  What do you think?  We would love to hear your thoughtful ideas on this very challenging issue.