December 13, 2008  

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Council unanimously opposes PSE&G high-voltage line

(by Rosa Kasper - Correspondent - December 12, 2008)

A near-capacity audience cheered and applauded when the Jefferson Township Council unanimously passed a resolution calling for the PSE&G to withdraw its application from the New Jersey State Board of Public Utilities.

A resolution is a formal expression of the Township Council’s policies, beliefs sentiments, or opinions. Resolutions do not have the force of law.

In a letter addressed to people in the affected towns, Power company spokesman George D. Sous said that the new high-voltage line is needed to prevent overloaded lines and maintain system reliability. The official name of the project is the "Roseland Electric Reliability Project."

But PSE&G Spokeswoman Karen Johnson said that the company couldn’t withdraw an application it hasn’t yet submitted. The application will go to the state board at an unspecified time later in December, Johnson explained. She said she was unaware of the resolution the Jefferson council passed on Dec. 3.

Township officials say that PSE&G is breaking its commitment to the township by sidestepping local approval and going directly to the board for permission to build a new 500-kilovolt-transmission line through Northern New Jersey, Jefferson officials say.

In a telephone interview on Monday morning, Council President Rick Yocum said that the council wanted the power company to re-examine the magnitude of the project, with emphasis on the height of the towers, which would be nearly 200 feet tall.

"The affected municipalities should be the decision-making bodies when such quality of life actions are to be made for their residents," Yocum said.

Johnson said that the company never had made an official commitment to seek the blessing of each town through which the lines would pass, although in the past on smaller projects, it had been their practice had gone from town to town for approval.

When the state board receives the application, there will be at least one if not more opportunities for local government officials and others to have their say, Johnson said.

Kenneth Rosenfeld, a member of the Longwood Lake Cabin owners association, came from New York City to tell the council he is "extremely concerned" that erecting the new towers would cause run-off and jeopardize the environment around the lake.

"Our questions weren’t answered, the plans were hazy and experts couldn’t give us well formulated responses," Rosenfeld said.

"I’ve been coming here virtually every weekend to enjoy Jefferson. I try to maintain my cabin as environmentally sensitively as possible. The line appears to be delivering great profits to company but I can’t see how it would benefit Jefferson."

Township Attorney Lawrence Cohen said it isn’t clear how the Highlands Act will interact with PSE&G.

"The question is, is the power company exempt? They may well be," Cohen said. "I’m not aware of any other project coming through the heart of the Highlands area, and it will be interesting how this scenario plays out."

Township resident Ann Augustyn thanked the council for hearing the people who came to meetings and expressed an opinion.

"It is nice to know you are heard. Active participation is a positive thing. I am concerned that we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg," Augustyn said. "What will be the leadership in terms of fighting this? Is the Coalition [of Concerned Municipalities] going to carry the ball?"

Council Vice President Brooke Hardy said the township meant to get involved with the Coalition of Concerned Municipalities, and Administrator James Leach said that he had begun making inquiries about how to join.

Russ Barry, Lake Hopatcong, said that as he read the state energy master plan posted on the Stop the lines Web site, he saw it as an example of innovative thinking about alternative energy sources that runs counter to the kind of massive undertaking PSE&G is proposing.

The township attorney praised the organization, Stop the Lines for being well-organized and tuned into alternative energy issues. The group has a well-established Web presence, and is at the heart of the effort to oppose PSE&G’s plans.

"Both (political) parties say the overall goals is to cut down on energy use, and now the power company want to put this huge electrical project smack in the middle of the towns," Cohen added.

The council has sent a certified copy of this resolution to PSE&G as well as to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, Jefferson Township Legislative Representatives, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the Highlands Council and the Public Advocate.

Power Company will hold workshops

The September 24, 2008, public forum PSE&G held in Jefferson Township left some residents with more questions than answers.

Last week, people who signed into the workshop received a letter PSE&G Regional Public Affairs Manager George Sous inviting them to participate in additional workshops. The power company is holding two workshops for Morris County residents, one on Dec. 8 and the other on Dec. 16. Both will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Hanover Marriott, 1401 Route 10 in Whippany.

What’s a kilovolt?

A kilovolt is a unit of measurement equal to 1,000 volts. By comparison, U.S. households use an electrical current of 100 and 127 volts. To maintain the household voltage within this range, electrical distribution utilities use regulating equipment at electrical substations or along the distribution line.






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