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Power line vote put off for up to 30 days
 
By SETH AUGENSTEIN
saugenstein@njherald.com
NEWARK — The state’s Board of Public Utilities decided it needs more concrete proof, and at most a month, to decide on the Susquehanna-Roseland power transmission line.
The meeting was held Friday after a “flurry” of legal paperwork debating the necessity of the 500kv line upgrade, in light of similar “reliability” line projects being withdrawn by power companies in Virginia and Maryland.
The five BPU commissioners met and each spoke of their positions for just more than 20 minutes, but in that short time they discussed several highly-charged aspects of the plans for the 45-mile line crossing from Pennsylvania and across northwestern New Jersey.
Commissioner Frederick Butler mentioned he had received personal calls from PSE&G asking for an expedited decision on the power line. Several other commissioners nodded in agreement as he irately recounted the contact.
A spokeswoman for PSE&G said the company did not “believe it has engaged in improper ex parte discussions with BPU commissioners.”
But despite the out-of-office background, the bulk of the official meeting was devoted to the determination at hand: whether the question of “need” — the decider among the criteria — had been satisfied, in light of the intended cancellation of plans for two similar transmission lines. In less than a month, the Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline, or PATH line, in Virginia, and the Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway, or MAPP line, in Maryland have been voluntarily withdrawn by power companies owing to decreased power-load forecasts by grid operator PJM Interconnection.
Commissioner Joseph Fiordaliso, who had presided over the evidentiary hearings and previous testimony, began by asking the other commissioners to wait until PJM could explain how the Susquehanna-Roseland was still necessary, in context of the other lines’ changing projections. He said a brief letter the board received from PJM the night before, in which the PJM vice-president who testified in November again assured the board the New Jersey line was still needed, was not thorough enough to warrant an immediate decision.
“We need more than this summary statement,” Fiordaliso stated. “The changes in PATH and MAPP are extraordinary.”
The other commissioners agreed. Nicholas Asselta said he had not been contacted by PSE&G, and also mentioned he understood the importance of improving reliability, and moving ahead as quickly as possible.
Jeanne Fox, the board’s president, completed the unanimous agreement, saying she needed to get “into the weeds” on the new facets of the issue. She added that PSE&G’s construction schedule would not be adversely effected by the extra month, at most.
“I am confident that this brief delay will not impact that schedule,” she said.
Local opponents of the line said the decision left them hopeful for the ultimate
outcome.
“Confident? Not at all. Hopeful? Absolutely,” said Steve Rosenberg, a Byram neighbor of the line.
“I’m delighted — the delay is fantastic,” said Carl Lazzaro, a Fredon
committeeman.
The Susquehanna-Roseland power line would double the height of the existing 230 kv line for its 45-mile stretch in New Jersey. Pennsylvania’s counterpart to BPU, the Public Utilities Commission, approved its 100-mile stretch of the line Thursday, in a split vote.
The power company signed agreements with three of the 16 New Jersey municipalities affected by the plan this week; in exchange for money, Sparta, Stillwater and Hopatcong agreed to stay out of the
ongoing fight against the line.
After Friday’s delay announcement, a PSE&G spokeswoman said the company was “disappointed” with the outcome so far. Both the grid operator and power company have maintained that the line is necessary to ensure that reliability violations and  brownouts do not pop up on the line beginning in 2012.
The PSE&G spokeswoman confirmed that company officials have recently met with Gov. Jon Corzine, who will be replaced by Gov.-elect Chris Christie Tuesday. Powerline objectors say they are suspicious of the meetings, and what their effect has been on the last few weeks of dramatic developments surrounding Susquehanna-Roseland. The spokeswoman said the meetings regularly happen; she did not specify what their content may have been.
“As a major employer and service provider in the state, we routinely meet with the governor on a variety of issues,” she stated.
Created: 1/16/2010 | Updated: 1/16/2010

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