CBF Takes Legal Action to Stop York County Hydroelectric Facility

Cuffs Run proposal would destroy ‘phenomenal natural area’

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) has taken legal action to stop a 1,000-acre pumped-storage hydroelectric facility proposed for Cuffs Run, near the Susquehanna River in York County.

CBF filed a motion to intervene in the administrative proceedings with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) as the commission considers granting a preliminary permit to York Energy Storage LLC, for plans to build a 1.8-mile-long dam and flood 580 acres in Chanceford Township, to create a hydroelectric facility. CBF will also file a protest and comments on the project.

“This is a phenomenal natural area, and this facility is the wrong project, in the wrong place, at the wrong time,” said Paul Smail, Vice President for Litigation and General Counsel at CBF. “We are going to make every effort to make sure this project does not get a preliminary permit.”

CBF previously joined other groups in signing a letter to FERC, urging it to deny the February 2023 preliminary permit application.

The $2.5 billion project at Cuffs Run is doing irrevocable harm to Cuffs Run and the Susquehanna River and includes projected displacement of 40 families. Water would be pumped from the Susquehanna to fill a reservoir and flood roughly 580 acres and homes. Flooding and clear cutting of habitats will result in increased risk of erosion and destroy vital wildlife habitat along Cuffs Run and the river. The proposal is in direct contradiction to Pennsylvania’s commitments under the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Agreement.

Gone would be carbon sequestering forests, prime farmland, and conservation lands. Cuffs Run, home to naturally reproducing brook trout, would be devastated. Vital habitats for plants and animals classified as of special concern would be obliterated. Obliterated too would be the Mason Dixon Trail, recognized by the National Park Service as a heritage trail. 

Opposing the Cuffs Run project is a unique opportunity for CBF to defend water quality, wildlife habitat, natural resources and public access to those resources, and private property rights in a predominantly agricultural community in York County.

If the motion to intervene is granted by FERC, CBF will become a party to the commission’s proceedings. “What that allows us to do is receive service, receive notice of all the filings made in this case,” Smail added. “It also allows us to seek judicial review should the preliminary permit be granted. It also allows us to seek reconsideration before the commission and ultimately seek an appeal before the circuit court for the District of Columbia Circuit.”  

CBF will continue to engage with the Lancaster Conservancy, Susquehanna River Heritage Area, Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper and other partners in opposing the York Energy Storage project to empower local citizens and its membership.

“It’s hard to describe how extraordinary Cuffs Run area is. One has to be amongst it to truly appreciate the uniqueness of the area in our region,” added Harry Campbell, CBF Science Policy & Advocacy Director in Pennsylvania. “If this proposal moves forward, the opportunity for future generations to experience this special place will be gone forever. So will the refuge that a wide array of plants and animals have made among its forests and fields.”   

A 60-day public comment period continues through March 31, before FERC rules on the permit application. View a step-by-step guide in how to file public comment, and use the P-15332 docket number to reference Cuffs Run. CBF is also circulating an online petition to stop the Cuffs Run project. 

B.J. Small 90x110

B.J. Small

Pennsylvania Communications & Media Relations Manager, CBF

[email protected]

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