Transource, Franklin County Commissioners settle in multi-million dollar deal

10 July 2024- The Franklin County Commissioners announced today the approval of a settlement agreement that marks the end of the county’s active opposition to a planned energy transmission project through areas of Franklin County.

In 2021, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) denied an application submitted by Transource Pennsylvania LLC for a high-voltage electric transmission project in Franklin and York counties. Transource sought and obtained relief in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. That federal court ruling, which is currently on appeal in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, made the project’s approval somewhat more likely and was based on federal legal concepts related to the PUC’s limited discretion to determine the need for the proposed project.

Franklin County was denied permission to intervene in the federal litigation, and its subsequent appeal was also denied. With the county’s ability to directly influence the project thus reduced, the commissioners sought an alternative path to lessen the potential negative local effects the project could have on county residents.

Should the project ultimately be approved and constructed, this settlement with Transource will provide the county with substantial financial resources that could be used to fund new land preservation projects across Franklin County.

“This settlement represents an opportunity to provide significant funds toward reducing the effects of these transmission lines, should they be built,” said Franklin County Commissioner Chairman Dean Horst. “Transource will provide Franklin County up to $9 million of cash and in-kind relocation expenses in connection with this project.”

Franklin County was represented by Scott Wyland of Salzmann Hughes, whom the county appointed as special counsel and whose efforts aided in the PUC’s initial ruling that Transource’s application be denied altogether.

“Although this project may have initially been denied at the state level, the current posture of the case in federal courts called for a plan to mitigate the local impact of the project if it is built,” said Wyland. “By this settlement, the county no longer opposes the project, but will have a pool of resources if the project is completed and energized.”

Upon completion of the project, Transource will pay the county $5 million, which the county may use in a number of ways, to be decided at a later date. Most significant may be helping underwrite additional agricultural and conservation easements, although other uses for the funds are permitted. Transource will also fund up to $4 million for what is referred to as ‘micro-siting’ changes to the project path.

The settlement recognizes that the project may yet be denied, but if it is approved and built, Franklin County will have resources to make sensible but limited modifications to the precise siting path, within the existing 1,000-foot corridor, and use the cash funds for conservation efforts outside the boundaries of the transmission corridor.

“If the Transource project is built, the county will have a source of funds available to help strengthen our commitment to preserving the rural character of Franklin County and the quality of life of our residents,” said Horst.

The PUC is expected to review and eventually approve various elements of the settlement over the coming months. Today’s decision by the Franklin County Commissioners merely authorizes the county’s entry into that settlement agreement.