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Power line opposition grows


Driven by a wide variety of concerns, from health to environmental to just not getting enough information, groups have sprung up along the nearly 50-mile route of a proposed power line through northern New Jersey.

Where opponents of other power line projects have had the big issue of eminent domain on which to hang their hat, in this case the power company, Public Service Electric & Gas, has owned the right-of-way to the land for more than 80 years and already has power lines strung along the route.

"Our priorities are one, need. We don't think there's a real need for this," said Tom Hill, one of two Fredon residents who formed "Two, is the environment and third is health."

Just a couple of months old, the group has more than 300 members on its e-mail list, most of them from New Jersey, although the full project will stretch from Roseland, in Morris County to the Susquehanna power plant in Pennsylvania.

About 51 million people get electricity from the PJM Interconnection, the regional organization that coordinates movement of power through a 13-state region stretching from New Jersey to Illinois to North Carolina. The company's justification for the new line, which would be built on new towers that also would have the current 230-kilovolt lines, is that by 2013, the current transmission system could become overloaded, resulting in either massive blackouts or rolling voltage drops to maintain the system.

Groups such as Stop The Lines maintain there is no such need and voluntary or mandated conservation efforts will offset any growth.

While PJM approved construction of a new 500-kilovolt line more than a year ago, it wasn't until early August that the line's route was decided.

The PSE&G portion of the line will move through 15 New Jersey municipalities while the Pennsylvania portion will be built by PPL, operating under Pennsylvania rules that require a hearing before that state's Public Utility Commission.

In New Jersey, PSE&G has two options -- appear before the state's Board of Public Utilities, which could give a blanket approval or stop the project dead, or go before the planning or zoning boards in each of the 15 municipalities along the route.

On Sept. 23, the Montville governing body approved a resolution that demands the PSE&G line not be built until all questions have been answered.

Copies of the resolution have been forwarded to towns affected by the line, which in Sussex County include Stillwater, Fredon, Newton, Andover, Byram and Sparta.

At the same time, Montville and East Hanover councils have invited representatives from all 15 New Jersey towns affected to attend an Oct. 23 workshop to discuss mutual concerns.

One of the concerns expressed during a Fredon Township Committee meeting last week was that PSE&G has found it could bypass the towns and go directly to the state.

"We've always had the BPU option available to us. We're evaluating both options," said Karen Johnson, a spokeswoman for PSE&G.

Fredon officials were the first to sponsor an informational meeting between power company officials and the public, something that has happened in only one other municipality since.

Scott Olson, a township councilman in Byram who describes himself as an "advocate for citizen involvement," has been running his own e-mail list for "B Rout-ers" (the initial designated letter of the chosen route) since early August.

The mailings are a collection of news stories, Web sites on power line issues, and commentaries, but take no personal stand.

In addition to being a councilman, he also sits on the township's Planning Board and could end up hearing the power company's case.

"I want everyone to be as well-educated as possible about this issue," he said. "The more we know, the better we can made decisions."

Created: 10/12/2008 | Updated: 10/12/2008


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