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  • 8 towns in Morris and Sussex join fight against high-voltage line

    by Joe Moszczynski / The Star-Ledger
    Sunday March 08, 2009, 10:30 AM

    Eight towns in Morris and Sussex counties have formed a coalition to fight a plan by PSE&G to build a 45-mile, $750 million high-voltage power line that could cut through North Jersey as opposition to the project continues to mount, a representative for one of the towns said.

    The group, known as the Coalition of Concerned Municipalities, consists of Jefferson, Montville and East Hanover in Morris County, and Stillwater, Fredon, Newton, Andover Township and Byram in Sussex County, said Scott Olson, a Byram councilman and the liaison to the town's environmental commission.

    "This project is going to have a huge impact on these municipalities. The lines would run through a lot of people's backyards," said Olson.

    Members of the environmental commissions of Stillwater, Fredon and Hardwick in Warren County are scheduled to meet Wednesday, March 11, at 7:30 p.m. in the Hardwick municipal building to consider joining the newly formed coalition.

    The proposed 500 kilovolt line would run from Hardwick, 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.

    The Susquehanna-Roseland power-line project includes installing 180- to 190-foot towers, almost twice the height of what is along the route now, to accommodate the existing 230 kilovolt line and the new 500 kilovolt one.

    Construction would take about 2Ā½ years, and the line needs to be in service by the summer of 2012 to avoid overloaded lines and possible blackouts and brownouts in New Jersey, said PSE&G spokeswoman Karen Johnson.

    The project would create about 200 jobs during the next few years and the payroll is estimated at $322 million, she said.

    "The existing line along this right-of-way was built in the 1920s and simply cannot sustain the region's growth any longer. Without upgrades, we risk brownouts and blackouts as early as 2012," she said.

    While company officials have said the new line would provide a better and more reliable power system, the towns are opposing it because of an array of health, safety and economic concerns, said Olson, the Byram councilman.

    Most of the 15 affected towns in Morris, Passaic, Sussex and Warren counties could lose thousands of dollars because the power line would reduce property values on homes located near it and result in lower property taxes for those homes, he said.

    "Towns would be losing a huge amount of ratables, forcing homes that are not near the line to pay more to maintain the current level of services," said Olson.

    PSE&G is seeking approval for the project from the state Board of Public Utilities and the state Department of Environmental Protection, where it is seeking an exemption from the 2004 Highlands Act.

    Olson claimed the state's largest power company is seeking BPU approval in an attempt to circumvent having hearings in each of the towns affected by the project, as the company originally said it would.

    But Johnson said applying with the BPU was always an option, and towns and property owners affected by the line will have the opportunity to participate in the BPU proceedings.

    "The BPU process just provides an orderly, more comprehensive way for this important reliability project to proceed," she said.

    Joe Moszczynski may be reached at (973) 383-0516 or jmoszczynski@starledger.com.

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