November 16, 2009
PSE&G line opponents, proponents spar at hearing
By COLLEEN O'DEA
NEWARK — Hearings
on Public Service Electric and Gas Company's contentious power line
upgrade began Monday with utility officials reiterating the dire need
for the project and opponents blasting what they say will be
environmental, health and cost impacts.
a dozen lawyers for both sides began making their cases before Joseph
Fiordaliso, a New Jersey Board of Public Utilities Commissioner serving
as the hearing officer for the $750 million Susquehanna-Roseland
project, which would traverse 47 miles in New Jersey, including through
portions of Morris County.
Jodi Moskowitz, a PSE&G lawyer,
opened the hearing by saying the work — which would add 500-kilovolt
lines on towers as tall as 195 feet — "is critical to the future
reliability of New Jersey's and the region's power grid."
is based on greed, not need," countered Catherine E. Tamasik, an
attorney representing seven municipalities — Andover, Byram, East
Hanover, Montville, Parsippany, Freedon and Hardwick — that are
intervening in the process.PSE&G filed an application with the BPU
last January, seeking to be exempted from local zoning rules for its
project. The company submitted numerous documents and three public
hearings were held.
These hearings are expected to continue through next Tuesday and no public testimony will be taken.
municipalities, several environmental groups and a citizens' group
called Stop the Lines had sought a dismissal of PSE&G's application
or delay of the hearings, but Fiordaliso declined to rule on that
"I do not believe allowing the hearing to proceed will
result in any harm to the parties . . . I'm not going to
penalize the company for continuing to work with the parties throughout
the process to try to minimize the impacts of the project," said
Fiordaliso, adding the interveners could refile their motion to dismiss
at the close of the hearings.
In their motion, the interveners
complained that the project's details remain incomplete as PSE&G
keeps changing parts of it — most recently stating it has abandoned
plans to build a new switching station in East Hanover, but instead
wpi;d handle the new lines through a retooled Roseland station.
some of the arguments from the opponents in her opening statement,
Moskowitz said electromagnetic fields like those emanating from power
lines have not been "established as a cause of any disease or illness."
She also said that PJM, which oversees the region's power grid, has
reaffirmed the need for the line upgrade for three years in a row and
without it, brownouts and blackouts could occur.
"If we continue
to wait to begin construction, there will not be enough time to build
this reliability project," she said. "Timely BPU action is required."
But Carol Overland, attorney for Stop the Lines, disputed the need.
"This was based on forecasts done many years ago," she said. "Demand has been dropping."
Tobia, representing the Montville Board of Education, said the EMFs
emitted by the new lines near the ball fields at the middle school
would be "10 times the recommended exposure limits," and the school
district wanted PSE&G to move the lines so that "where these kids
play every day will be safe."
"Environmental issues should not
be forgotten," added Julia LeMense of the Eastern Environmental Law
Center, representing several local environmental organizations that
object to the project because of the damage they say it will do the
Highlands region, through which they lines would be built.
paramount concern is to keep the lights on," said Steven Goldenberg,
representing Exelon Corp., adding the project is crucial to "preventing
an ultimately catastrophic cascading system of blackouts and the
economic and social toll they would exact."
Most of the
testimony focused on the process of siting the project along the
existing power line corridor, which crosses from Pennsylvania at the
Delaware Water Gap and proceeds through Warren and Sussex Counties.
More than half the line would traverse Morris County, through
Jefferson, Rockaway Township, Kinnelon, Boonton Township, Montville,
Parsippany and East Hanover before ending in Roseland.
Pollock, representing PSE&G, said he does not think the line
upgrade would hurt the property values of nearby homes. The utility is
still negotiating the modifications of 22 easements but if these cannot
be gotten, PSE&G would consider going through the condemnation
"Condemnation is always an option where we could not
reach a settlement," said Karen Johnson, a PSE&G spokeswoman. "We
would need BPU approval on need before proceeding."
The hearings are expected to continue Wednesday in BPU's 8th floor meeting room at 2 Gateway Center, Newark.
Colleen O'Dea can be reached at 973-428-6655 or firstname.lastname@example.org.