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PSE&G looks to state for approval of new power plan
 

By BRUCE A. SCRUTON

bscruton@njherald.com

While there has been no formal filing of an application, it appears PSE&G is taking a serious look at going to a state regulating body, rather than face separate municipal boards, to get approval for a new transmission line and has met with the state board about the process.

The 500-kilovolt transmission line would follow the same route as an existing 230-kv line through southern Sussex County and part of Morris County. The project is part of an overall plan, which its backers say is needed to meet the electric needs of New Jersey by the end of the next decade.

Opponents of the Susquehanna-Roseland project point to a recent meeting as evidence the company is looking to bypass the local boards, while a PSE&G spokeswoman said any conversation was "very informal" and "came up in the course of a larger update" to the staff of the state Board of Public Utilities.

There is even a dispute as to when the meeting occurred, with company spokeswoman Karen Johnson saying there was a regular meeting Oct. 10 with the BTU to discuss all the company's projects and operations.

In a press release Tuesday, a coalition of municipalities and representatives of several environmental groups said the meeting occurred Oct. 14 when the company, in an effort to bypass local approvals, "initiated discussions with the NJBPU seeking state approval for the line expansion."

Dena Mottola Jaborska of Environment New Jersey said she would describe the meeting as "going over the process and ground rules."

Late Wednesday afternoon, Janeen Lawlor, communications director for the BPU, agreed with that assessment but insisted no application has been filed by the utility.

"This power line is 'the line in the sand' for us," said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club. He said the line is "bad for the environment, climate change, pollution, open space and consumers."

Three Sussex County towns -- Andover, Byram, and Fredon -- have joined with towns in Morris County to seek much more information from PSE&G about the proposed transmission line. And while they have not come out in outright opposition to the line, the coalition said it should not be approved by the state until many more questions have been answered.

"We don't know who's telling us the truth, or what the truth is," said Scott Olson, a councilman in Byram who operates an Internet site which e-mails news articles and studies to a growing list of organizations and concerned citizens.

As an example of the
misinformation he said is coming from the company, he said utility officials told a meeting with officials for Morris County parks that they wouldn't know until next spring where new poles would be built to carry the combined transmission lines.

"Yet, when they filed with the Highlands Council, they had GPS coordinates of all the tower locations," he said.

Opponents and supporters say there are tactical and practical reasons for the company in choosing between appearing before the state board or making appearances before each municipality.

While municipalities will be concerned about placement of poles, appearances and even questions over magnetic fields, the BPU also will take on the larger issues of whether the new lines are needed and where the increased capacity fits in with the state's overall energy management plan.

Johnson said PSE&G, as did all utilities, worked with the state in coordinating the energy plan and said even if the state were to meet its goals of 20 percent renewable energy sources by 2020, "we will still need some way to get this power to the users."

There is no legal deadline for the company to file with either localities or the state board, but there is a practical one, said Johnson.

"We know we need the project to be completed by the summer of 2012 and it will take about three years of construction," she said.

Created: 10/29/2008 | Updated: 10/29/2008

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