PUC decision bad for Northeast Pennsylvania says PennFuture

Aug. 29, 2002
PennFuture condemned Pennsylvania utility regulators' decision to allow the purchase of the Pennsylvania-American Water Co. by RWE without requiring that certain buffer areas be protected.

HARRISBURG, Pa., Aug. 29, 2002 -- Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture) on Thursday condemned the decision by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) to approve the purchase of the Pennsylvania-American Water Company by RWE, a German company, without requiring that buffer areas around its northeast Pennsylvania reservoirs be permanently protected as part of the settlement.

PennFuture and a local organization, Defend Our Watershed! (DOW!) had filed a petition which asked the PUC to require conservation easements around the reservoirs, as development pressures in the area have put the watershed at risk.

"The commission has made a big mistake," said Charles McPhedran, a senior attorney with PennFuture. "The commission's decision ignores environmental threats to our water supply and gives the German company a free ride.

"This decision fails to protect buffer areas around 36 reservoirs in Northeast Pennsylvania," said McPhedran. "The new owners want the option to develop the land around these reservoirs, and the commission has done nothing to stop them.

"As we're learning the hard way these days, our big corporations need to be held accountable for their actions," said McPhedran. "This decision lets the German company take over our water supply with zero accountability to the people of Pennsylvania."

This decision comes after a series of citizen actions to preserve the watersheds of northeast Pennsylvania, which had been protected from destruction for nearly a century by the local water company. The reservoirs and the immediately surrounding watershed were purchased by Pennsylvania-American Water Company in 1995.

After a number of transactions, a larger expanse of land was lost to development in 2000 when the then-owner, Southern Union, sold 40,000 acres at $300/acre to a still-undisclosed owner for development. DOW! and PennFuture have been trying to uncover the details of this transaction, and to protect the land that remains.

PennFuture, which has offices in Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, is a statewide public interest membership organization that advances policies to protect and improve the state's environment and economy. PennFuture's activities include litigating cases before regulatory bodies and in local, state and federal courts, advocating and advancing legislative action on a state and federal level, public education and assisting citizens in public advocacy.

Defend Our Watershed! (www.defendourwatershed.com) is a public interest organization dedicated to the preservation, protection and restoration of northeastern Pennsylvania's watersheds. DOW! recognizes that these lands not only play a critical role in protecting drinking water, but also that their biological, recreational and aesthetic values are vital to the ecological and economic well-being of the region. DOW! seeks to educate the public and government officials about the importance of watersheds; encourage and facilitate the public ownership of the region's watersheds where possible; and otherwise promote the environmentally responsible and sustainable use of watershed lands.

Source: Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future

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