Skip to Content

GKH Provides Pro Bono Legal Representation to Environmental Groups

Gibbel Kraybill & Hess, LLP (GKH) is committed to protecting our environment and being good stewards of our earth.  To that end, GKH is always looking for ways that we can make a difference.  For example, from 2018 to 2021, GKH partners Dwight Yoder and Sheila O’Rourke, along with paralegal Susan Clarke, represented the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, a group of Catholic nuns, in federal court, seeking to prevent a large fossil fuel company from installing a pipeline across the Sisters’ private property located in Lancaster County.  In 2023, GKH installed solar panels on the roof of its office building and installed two electric car chargers that are available for clients and employees to use.
More recently, GKH attorneys Dwight Yoder and Robin White, along with paralegal Susan Clarke, agreed to provide pro bono representation to the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association, Keystone Trails Association, the Mason-Dixon Trail System, Inc., as well as to a number of local landowners and residents, to oppose an application for a pumped storage facility along the Susquehanna River at Cuffs Run, in York County, Pennsylvania.  A pumped storage facility involves pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons out of the Susquehanna River into a man-made impoundment.  The water would be pumped from the Susquehanna River into the impoundment when electric rates are low and then released back into the River to generate hydro-electricity when the electric rates are high, resulting in a financial windfall for the owners of the facility.
The problem with the proposed project is that it would destroy roughly 1000 acres of mostly forested land, farm land, and private residences in order to create the 580-acre impoundment required for the facility.  This would result in the complete destruction of Cuffs Run, a pristine feeder creek into the Susquehanna, and would eliminate a portion of the popular and widely used Mason Dixon Trail.  It also would have extensive and far reaching impacts on the environmental, cultural, and recreational resources in the Cuffs Run area.  Furthermore, federal law allows the applicant—a private company—to  take by condemnation the private property of others. This would result in 49 private property owners losing their homes, farms and properties.
(Aerial view of Susquehanna River and the land surrounding Cuffs Run.)
(Gorge through which Cuffs Run enters the Susquehanna River.)
Since the application for the pumped storage facility was filed, there has been a groundswell of opposition to the proposed project by local residents, community organizations, and
representatives of state and local government.  Throughout February and March 2024, over 1200 submissions were made to FERC by individuals and organizations opposed to the project.  This included landowners, residents, kayakers, boaters, trail runners, hikers, and bird watchers as well as various representatives at all levels of government and conservation groups.   Lancaster County Conservancy spearheaded efforts to organize resistance to the project, and its filing, joined by the Susquehanna National Heritage Area, Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association, Farm & Natural Lands Trust of York County, and Chesapeake Bay Foundation, offered compelling grounds for FERC to deny the application.
(Crossing Cuffs Run at the base of the gorge.)
In March of 2024, GKH filed an official protest with FERC highlighting the valuable ecological, historical and recreational resources at stake in this proceeding, including the Conejohela Flats, Mason-Dixon Trail, Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, and the Safe Harbor Petroglyphs. The region has been designated for conservation by state and federal government, as the Susquehanna National Heritage Area (United States National Park Service) and Susquehanna Riverlands Conservation Landscape (Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources).   It is anticipated that FERC will decide whether to grant the preliminary permit application for the proposed pumped storage facility in the next few months.
GKH is proud to partner with these environmental groups and member of the community in fighting this project.  At GKH we feel strongly about the need to protect our environment for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren.  Providing pro bono legal services is one way we can put actions to these words.
(GKH’s Robin White, Dwight Yoder, and Susan Clarke (pictured left to right) hike along the Mason-Dixon Trail, a resource threatened by the proposed project.)
(Ted Evgeniadis and Devin Winand of the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association show GKH the Mason-Dixon Trail.)
(Robin White is a member of GKH’s Advocacy Group and practices in the areas of zoning and land use, real estate, and general civil litigation. Robin assists clients in all aspects of zoning, land development, and permitting matters, and she prepares sales agreements, leases, and easements. She further represents clients in matters of general civil litigation, with a focus on employment law and civil rights actions.)