Public Service Electric & Gas filed an application Monday seeking state approval to build a 45-mile-long power line, partly in Morris County, that includes 20-story-tall towers that are twice the height of existing ones.
Local municipal officials and environmental groups said months ago that PSE&G would make an application with the state Board of Public Utilities to avoid seeking the same approval from individual municipal planning boards. PSE&G officials acknowledged at the time that they were considering such a move.
"PSE&G is trying to go behind the backs of the communities affected by this power line," Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said Monday in a prepared statement.
PSE&G officials have said the Susquehanna-Roseland power line, which would go through 15 towns in New Jersey on its way from Pennsylvania to Roseland, is needed to keep up with consumer demand for electricity and to avoid outages.
A local coalition, including officials from East Hanover and Montville, has opposed the plan, expressing concerns about environmental and health issues along with the potential of falling property values near the line.
"This was not unexpected," Montville Mayor Deborah Nielson said of Monday's filing. "We're still going forward with our questions."
BPU spokesman Tim O'Donovan acknowledged receipt of the application on Monday and said there could be more than one public hearing on the matter "given the high level of interest."
PSE&G spokeswoman Karen Johnson said her company would "definitely support" holding public meetings in any of the towns to be affected by the proposed power line.
In a previous statement, PSE&G President and Chief Operating Officer Ralph LaRossa said going to the BPU would allow his company to address all concerns in "one comprehensive proceeding" and would enable it to complete the project in a timely manner.
He said in a statement issued Monday that the project is necessary because power demands are expected to grow "despite the current economic slowdown and conservation efforts."
Last month, a state Highlands Council staff report said the power line would harm the Highlands region and was inconsistent with the 2004 Highlands Water Protection and Energy Act. The Highlands Council is expected to vote on the report next month.
If the council agrees with the report, it could make recommendations to the state
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