Duquesne Light, Longue Vue go to court
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Duquesne Light argues that Longue Vue Club's objection to the erection of two poles for electricity transmission lines on its property simply comes down to interfering with a lovely view of the Allegheny River.
And while that certainly is significant -- the club's name says it all -- Longue Vue argues that the power company has no right to build taller poles on its Penn Hills property because the 1949 easement it was granted does not give permission to construct access roads to the site.
On Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the state Superior Court heard arguments on the issue.
Duquesne Light filed for a preliminary injunction against Longue Vue in March, arguing that the club was blocking the construction of a 7.8-mile stretch of transmission lines from the Highland substation in East Liberty to Logans Ferry substation in Plum.
The lines, approved by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission in 2011, are an upgrade from 69,000 volts to 345,000 that will ensure customers continue to have power even during peak operating times.
The new lines require two higher poles -- going from 80-foot H-frames to 150-foot monopoles -- and an access road to the site.
Longue Vue appealed a June Common Pleas Court ruling in favor of Duquesne Light to Superior Court, which halted work until it could hear the case.
Kenneth Yarsky, the attorney representing Longue Vue, told the appeals court panel that Judge Christine A. Ward misinterpreted the language of the easements.
"What they grant is a right of 50 feet and nothing more," said Mr. Yarsky, including no permission to build an access road. "If they needed more, they should have asked for it in the 1949 document."
"If they could do this by flying in the equipment by helicopter, would that be OK?" asked Senior Superior Court Judge Eugene B. Strassburger III.
Mr. Yarsky told the court that the easement "never would have been granted" if the original poles were taller.
But, Judge Strassburger pointed out, the easement includes no height limitation for the poles.
"What was intended by the parties back at the time -- the name speaks for itself," Mr. Yarsky said.
"It's a beautiful view," the judge replied.
"Well, it won't be for long," the attorney answered.
Duquesne Light attorney Russ Ober said the idea that the easement doesn't permit the company to cross the property to access it makes no sense.
"Duquesne Light has to have access to the easement to be able to do what the agreement allows," he said. "You can't reach the 50-foot easement without going through the Longue Vue property."
Mr. Ober said the roads to get equipment to the construction site would be temporary along the hillsides. They would not cross the golf course.
"What this case is really about -- the 500 club members don't want to be able to see the top of a pole from the Pink Terrace," Mr. Ober said.
Judge John T. Bender asked why Duquesne Light can't get access to the easement without crossing Longue Vue's property. Mr. Ober cited the topography but Judge Bender wasn't convinced.
"You can," he said. "You don't want to spend money."
Last month, Duquesne Light filed a complaint against Longue Vue seeking damages for interfering with the project.
First Published October 3, 2012 12:00 am