PSE&G bypasses towns' approval, instead seeks state's OK
 

By BRUCE A. SCRUTON

bscruton@njherald.com

The company that wants to build a new 500,000-volt electric transmission line through southern Sussex County announced Thursday it will take its project before a state agency, rather than apply to each of the 15 municipalities through which the line would pass.

"The Board of Public Utilities process will allow us to address the many questions and concerns in one comprehensive proceeding and at the same time complete the process in a time frame that meets the needs PJM has determined for continuing reliable electric service," said Ralph LaRossa, president and chief operating officer of Public Service Electric & Gas.

PJM is the regional organization that oversees the electric grid serving an area from New Jersey to Virginia and as far west as Illinois. It wants local transmission companies to upgrade transmission lines to meet reliability and capability
concerns.

Opponents to the PSE&G project, known as the Susquehanna-Roseland line, as well as to similar projects in other states, have said much of the capacity being proposed is not needed and point to environmental issues. They said the projects are driven more by corporate bottom lines than the reliability and capacity argument and conservation can offset the anticipated growth.

In the same news release, the company also announced a series of public workshops where experts will be available to talk with citizens and also will meet with each town's mayor, township engineer and other professional staff to review the engineering and design plans.

The meetings with local officials will focus on construction impacts, design and routing of the line, he said.

The Susquehanna-Roseland line, named for its starting and ending points, crosses through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and into Warren County and follows an existing 230-kilovolt transmission line.

The line passes through Stillwater, Fredon, Newton, Andover, Byram and Sparta in Sussex before entering Morris County in Jefferson and continuing on east.

Based on the proposal, PSE&G will construct new, taller poles or towers to carry both the existing and new transmission lines.

Scott Olson, a town councilman in Byram, began an e-mail service that sends out news articles and information on the proposed line and represents the town in a coalition of municipalities formed because of the issue.

"We really do believe this should be sent back to the localities," said Olson, who said the municipalities plan to make such an argument to the state.

"If they won't send it back, at least let them (BPU) hold hearings in the areas affected and at times when people can attend. Don't do this in Newark or Trenton," he added.

Fredon Mayor Sandra Coltelli said, "In some sense, I guess, it's good to be before the BPU. They can force the company to answer the higher issues. At the local level, we can't demand answers about reliability and the environment and whether it's needed or not."

Among those "higher issues" are the health impacts from electromagnetic fields, whether such lines encourage or discourage development of renewable sources of energy and how the power is generated.

Coltelli said localities need to act together and demand the state get answers. Because members of governing bodies sit on local planning and land use boards, many have been reluctant to make public statements in the past because of the possibility PSE&G would choose to appear before the local boards.

"This frees us up" to pass resolutions, she said.

The Fredon Township Committee has drafted a resolution to the state that urges the it not to move forward until "they (PSE&G) answer all our concerns," Coltelli said.

LaRossa said the company plans to file with the state in mid-December at the same time that PPL Electric Utilities files with the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission for its part of the line.

Created: 11/6/2008 | Updated: 11/6/2008

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