July 31, 2009
Groups may sue over high-voltage PSE&G line approval
groups are considering a legal challenge to The New Jersey Highlands
Council's approval of Public Service Electric & Gas Co.'s
transmission line project now that the governor has declined to veto
month, the council voted 8-2 to declare consistent with the Highlands
regional master plan PSE&G's $750 million plan to add 500-kilovolt
lines on towers as high as 195 feet along a 44-mile stretch from Warren
County through portions of Morris to Roseland.
environmental organizations had urged Gov. Jon Corzine to veto the
council's action, claiming there were ethical and conflict of interest
problems with the vote and that the project violates the Highlands Act.
Because the deadline for a veto has passed, the council's action stands.
"Governor Corzine could have done the right thing and invalidated the
council's vote, which was an outrageous abuse of power and breach of
public trust, but chose not to," NJ Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel
said. "Instead, he will let shameful record stand."
Corzine's office did not return a call for comment.
Eileen Swan, the council's executive director, defended its action,
saying staff worked with the utility to craft a project that offers the
greatest protection possible to the environment.
said council staff, which had originally found more than 50
inconsistencies with the master plan, changed its mind after PSE&G
agreed to give the council $18.6 million for environmental mitigation
and preservation efforts.
"People in Jersey City got arrested
for taking $1,000," said Tittel. "This just seems more corrupt than the
stuff we saw last week."
Swan said staff changed its mind on
the PSE&G application because the utility addressed each of its
initial concerns about environmental impacts.
the council's president, said Tittel's characterization was
"outrageous," noting the council had held public meetings and took
testimony from 400 people and groups on the plan.
Sierra Club to suggest that people cannot have honest disagreements
about complex public issues reflects a surprisingly naive and
simplistic understanding of democracy," Weingart said.