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PSE&G seeks permit for 45-mile power line through North Jersey
by Kristen Alloway and Lawrence Ragonese
Monday January 12, 2009, 6:51 PM
PSE&G applied to the state Board of Public Utilities today for permission to build a 45-mile, $650 million high-voltage power line that would cut through North Jersey, bypassing a potential process that would require approvals from each of the 15 towns affected by the project.
The company's decision to apply directly to the BPU to build the
Susquehanna-Roseland power line, which it says is required to prevent
overloads and maintain reliability of the power grid, was criticized by
opponents as an attempt to avoid local public scrutiny.
"PSE&G is going behind the backs of the communities effected by the power lines," said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey branch of the Sierra Club. He urged the BPU to reject the plan.
"These power lines will not only cut an ugly scar across New Jersey but will bring dirty coal power into our states along with more pollution and undermine our efforts deal combat climate change," he argued.
But company officials dismissed that contention, saying there is an obvious need for a better and more reliable power system, with an eye on future needs.
"The line is needed because demand for electricity in our area has risen substantially in recent years and is expected to continue to grow over the long term despite the current economic slowdown and conservation efforts," PSE&G President Ralph LaRossa said in a statement last night.
Board of Public Utilities spokesman Doyal Siddell said the application is under initial review by agency staff, and the process will include public hearings, which have not yet been scheduled. BPU has one year to make a decision, he said.
If there is no decision in that time, PSE&G may seek approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Siddell added.
The proposed 500-kilovolt line would run from Hardwick in Warren County, through Sussex and Morris counties, to Roseland in Essex County. The company said the line has been mandated by PJM Interconnection, an organization that oversees the regional power grid in 13 states, and will prevent electrical overloads and blackouts in northern New Jersey.
The project includes installing 180- to 190-foot towers, about twice the height of what is along the route now, to accommodate the existing 230-kilovolt line and the new 500-kilovolt one.
Local officials and environmentalists criticized the power-line plan on several fronts, charging it presents health hazards, will hinder renewable energy efforts and harm property values. But PSE&G said no direct link has been established between power lines and health issues, and contends the lines will be designed to "cancel out" magnetic fields between the 230- and 500-kilovolt lines.
PSE&G said it applied to the BPU to deal with the process in "one comprehensive proceeding." But some local officials, including East Hanover Mayor Joseph Pannullo and Byram Councilman Scott Olson, charged the company with making it more difficult for opponents to voice concerns.
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