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Hearing moves on for power line project
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Neighbor News (Montville Edition)

A last-ditch effort to stop the Board of Public Utilities hearing of the Susquehanna-Roseland Project before it even began failed last week as a coalition of interveners, including the towns Montville and Parsippany, continued their fight against the massive power project.

The hearing on the future of Public Service Electric & Gas Co’s proposed $750 million power line plan moved forward after BPU hearing Commissioner Joseph Fiordaliso set the coalition’s motion to dismiss aside.

In their motion and the Nov. 11, 2009. follow-up letter to the Board the representatives of the opposing parties ask the Board to dismiss, or alternatively delay the hearing because the petition is based on, among other things, outdated and insufficient evidence and does not sufficiently justify the costs of this project to New Jersey ratepayers.

Ever since the route of the proposed Susquehanna-Roseland power line was announced in June, concessions to agencies such as the Highlands Council and other groups have resulted in continuous adjustments to the initial plan. Early on, the location of one switching station was changed from Jefferson to Hopatcong, a decision which also impacted the size and location of towers in the area. More recently the company announced that it would not build a new switching station in East Hanover as planned, but would alternately retool the existing Roseland station to accommodate the new lines.

Fiordaliso ruled that he would not penalize the company for continuing to work with the parties throughout the process to try to minimize the impacts of the project. However he did offer that the interveners could re-file their motion to dismiss at the close of the hearings.

A massive undertaking

The Susquehanna-Roseland project proposes to add a 500-kilovolt line from Pennsylvania across 44 miles and 15 municipalities in northwestern New Jersey along an existing 230-kilovolt corridor.

The existing line is set on poles that are about 80-90 feet in height; however, the new lines would need to be doubly as high with some towers reaching up to 195 feet into the air.

PSE&G maintains that the current lines put in place in the 1920s can no longer support the ever-growing need for power. According to PSE&G the new line is crucial to preventing blackouts on the power grid like the one that left tens of millions stranded in the heat, from New Jersey to Ontario, in August 2003. The regional transmission organization, PJM Interconnection, is projecting that without the new line overloads on existing power lines could begin as early as 2013.

The danger, the company said, is greatest during periods when demand is highest, such as the hottest days of summer, or when other power lines or equipment are unavailable because of maintenance. These overloads — the result of steadily increasing demand for power without a corresponding increase in the number of power lines to carry it — could cause brownouts or blackouts for PSE&G customers and throughout the region, according to PJM.

However, environmentalists, along with many residents in the effected towns, aren’t happy with the company’s plan. Calling the project a "dirty deal for dirty power," the Sierra Club has condemned the project.

The other issues most commonly cited by the opposition are the effects on the landscape, environmental impact, negative property values and the increased electro-magnetic fields, which could potentially be a health threat. Although the health effects of the massive power running through the lines hasn’t been determined and that is unacceptable to residents. In Montville the new line will run for 7 miles through the town in close proximity to ball fields and the Robert Lazar Middle School.

Just prior to the start of the BPU hearings, the Coalition of Concerned Municipalities against the PSE&G transmission project debuted an online YouTube video designed to get the public informed and involved about the impacts of the project upon their communities. The Coalition has commissioned consultants, credentialed experts in evaluating energy projects, to refute PSE&G's assertions of this project's need and prove that the power line project conflicts with the state's energy master plan.

In the video environmentalist and Byram Councilman Scott Olson says, "We believe this project is based on greed and not need. The need for this project could be mitigated by using such things as demand-side management, energy conservation and energy efficiency, as well as locally generated renewables."

Going forward

Following Fiordaliso’s decision to proceed, the evidentiary hearing began on Nov. 16. In accordance with the state statute, the BPU must determine, after the hearing, whether the "…proposed installation of the development in question is reasonably necessary for the service, convenience or welfare of the public."

A ruling on the new line is expected before the end of the year. If the BPU rules in their favor, PSE&G is estimating that construction of the new line would take about two and a half years and create about 200 jobs.


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