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
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
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