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Daily Record

PSE&G bullying public on power line

By Scott Olson • December 2, 2008

I'm afraid the Daily Record's recent editorial regarding the proposed Public Service Electric & Gas Co.'s Susquehanna-Roseland power line project, "Let there be light," missed the point being made by the growing numbers of groups and individuals objecting to this project and its presentation to the public.

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PSE&G is asking to be fully exempted from Highlands regulations, yet its proposal calls for large amounts of new disturbance along its approximately 27-mile slash through the Highlands, much of which occurs in, around and across preserved open space and parklands in some of the most environmentally sensitive locations in the Highlands Preservation Area. This is quite possibly the largest and most widespread construction project the region may ever see, and we do not believe a blanket exemption from this amount of disturbance is appropriate. To ensure no harm is done to these resources, this project must not be granted an exemption from the rules, and instead must be put through a thorough scrutiny and review by the Highlands Council and its staff.

Since the very announcement of this project, PSE&G has misstepped, misspoken and created its own public relations nightmare. It has not been forthcoming about its intentions and has been less than honest with residents and municipalities along this project's path.

This past summer, upon announcement of its choice of "Route B" as the path to be taken for this project, PSE&G promised residents and local officials to submit applications to each individual municipality for approval through zoning and land use boards. We took them at their word on this. On Nov. 6, we were informed it had instead chosen to bypass local approvals -- avoiding confrontation with residents who are keenly aware of the potential for harm and negative impact this project would create in their municipalities -- by applying directly to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) for approval. Simply put, PSE&G lied to us.

Given the growing mistrust and uncertainty surrounding this project, the groups participating in the recent press event adjacent to the power lines on the shore of Splitrock Reservoir were calling upon our state and local elected officials, the state Department of Environmental Protection, the Highlands Council and BPU to hold PSE&G to the highest standards for this project in light of the immense potential impact on our communities and the Highlands region.

Despite the assertion in your editorial, we do not believe we are facing an impossible task. To the contrary, we believe the public is being bullied by a corporate giant that is accustomed to having its way without question, and that the time is now for New Jersey residents to rise up and oppose the status quo and corporate greed, especially when it comes to the spending of nearly $1.3 billion ratepayer dollars on this project, which is utilizing 20th-century technology to address 21st-century energy problems.

Scott Olson is a councilman in Byram Township.

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