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Dismiss PSE&G application, say groups and towns
Friday, November 13, 2009
Aim Jefferson

Environmental and municipal organizations have asked the N.J. Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to dismiss Public Service Electric and Gas Company’s (PSE&G) petition to run a 45-mile swath of giant power towers from the Delaware Gap National Recreation Area through a succession of 16 towns in Warren, Sussex, and Morris Counties, Jefferson among them.

Joining forces to file the Nov. 6 motion were Environmental Interveners; the grassroots group, Stop the Lines; and the Coalition of Municipal Interveners. The Interveners include representatives from some of the affected towns: Andover, Byram, East Hanover, Fredon, Hardwick, Montville and Parsippany. Jefferson is not a member.

"We have no opinion at this time," said BPU Spokeswoman Victoria Fisher. "This will be handled as a matter of record."

Fisher confirmed that the BPU had received the motion, and added that because the BPU is a quasi-judicial body, "everything must be handled as if it were a court case."

"We believe the interveners’ motion has no merit," said Karen A. Johnson, a PSE&G spokeswoman. "We are continuing to prepare for the hearings that begin at the BPU next Monday, which will give the parties the opportunity to discuss various issues associated with this important reliability project."

At a meeting on May 14 with the BPU, PSE&G agreed set aside $300,000 in an escrow fund that will help the seven municipalities pay for the lawyers and environmental experts they will need to construct their case again the proposed power-line expansion.

"This project is not in the interests of our residents, our environment, or New Jersey's own energy policy," said David Slaperud of Stop the Lines.

"All of us interveners came to that conclusion shortly after this application was filed with the BPU," he continued. "PSE&G has continued to try to force this line through because of the money it stands to make from the 700 percent increase in transmission capacity that could be put through the proposed lines. It's all about money, and nothing to do with need."

In the motion, the organizations ask the BPU to dismiss PSE&G’s petition "without prejudice" until the power company either presents a complete or a revised application or agrees to waive its right to go directly to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for approval.

The term, "dismiss without prejudice" means that the judge refuses to adjudicate the lawsuit, usually on the grounds that key information is missing. The case then may be brought back to court later.

Susquehanna-Roseland project would require 195-foot-tall towers

The $1.2 to $1.3 billion project, known as the Susquehanna Roseland Project, would add a new 500-kilovolt (kV) line to the existing 230 kV line. The new line would require towers 195 feet tall, bounded by a 150-foot, clear-cut right of way. The tallest towers now are between 85 feet and 95 feet tall.

The new lines wouldn’t be for local service, but for "increased transfer capacity throughout the region."

Environmental organizations and others have continued to object to the building of the high-voltage lines on the grounds that they would mar the landscape, decrease property values, threaten the health of those living near them, and depend on "dirty" coal to generate the power.

No substation to be built in Jefferson

Plans to build a new substation in Jefferson were quashed last spring, in favor of building it in Hopatcong Township in Sussex County.

The earlier plan called for a 20-acre substation to be built in a wooded area abutting the Mahlon Dickerson Reservation off Weldon Road.

BPU hearings to begin Nov. 16

The BPU established a shortened schedule for deciding the issue. Evidentiary hearings begin on Nov. 16, and the BPU is scheduled to rule on the power lines in January 2010,

The law requires state agencies to act on such applications within one year. Applicants have the right to go directly to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission when state utilities boards fail to act in a timely fashion.

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