PSE&G amends power line proposal in northern N.J.
by Lawrence Ragonese/The Star-Ledger Tuesday May 19, 2009, 8:22 PM
HIGHLANDS -- PSE&G has slightly amended the route of a proposed power line through northern New Jersey to limit environmental damage and will create an $18.6 million fund to finance environmental repairs, the company said today.
The utility devised a detailed plan to minimize impact on habitats, wetlands, soil erosion and historic resources, according to a filing with the state Highlands Council.
The filing was a response to concerns cited by the Highlands Council regarding the proposed "Susquehanna-Roseland reliability project," a 45-mile, $750 million high-voltage power line that would cut through northern New Jersey. But environmental groups said the amendments did not ease their concerns.
"You can't mitigate this project. It will still cut a scar through the Highlands region and its mountains," New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said. "And the $18 million sure makes it look like they're trying to buy their way into getting this approved."
PSE&G, which is seeking an exemption from the state's Highlands Act, vowed to ensure that its work would not conflict with the goals and purposes of the law.
"We listened carefully to the public, state DEP and the Highlands staff," said Don McCloskey, director of environmental strategy for the project. "This comprehensive plan will minimize the impacts on the environment while enabling us to ensure safe, reliable electric service for years to come."
Among the changes was a decision to relocate a switching station from Jefferson in Morris County to Hopatcong in Sussex County. The revision would eliminate the need for 13 towers, reduce the number of trees to be cleared and reduce the amount of land needed for the switching station.
The change would benefit the Lake Winona section of Jefferson, which would no longer get towers or a switching station, said PSE&G spokeswoman Karen Johnson. Instead, the station would be set up near the Weldon quarry in an isolated area of Hopatcong.
Hopatcong Mayor Sylvia Petillo said it would have little impact on her town or its residents.
"We are certainly glad about this," Jefferson Mayor Russell Felter said.
Meanwhile, $18.6 million would be contributed by the utility to a new Highlands preservation fund "to address impacts that cannot be avoided or minimized," McCloskey said.
The Highlands Council will examine the amended application and solicit public comment on it, Highlands Council Executive Director Eileen Swan said.
PSE&G contends the transmission line is needed to maintain reliability of the regional electricity grid and prevent brownouts and blackouts. The proposed line would run from Pennsylvania into New Jersey, traveling 45 miles from Hardwick in Warren County, through Sussex and Morris counties and to Roseland in Essex County. That includes 26 miles through the protected Highlands region.
PSE&G said the line was mandated by PJM Interconnection, an organization that oversees a regional power grid in 13 states. The project includes installation of 180- to 190-foot towers, twice the height of current towers, to accommodate existing 230-kilovolt line and the new 500-kilovolt line.
A dozen towns in Morris and Sussex counties have joined a coalition to fight the PSE&G plan. Opponents say the lines would reduce property values and cause environmental and health concerns.
The Highlands exemption is one of several federal and state approvals the company has applied for as part of the project. An application to authorize the line is before the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, which is expected to render a decision by December.
Dec. 22, 2008 -- Highlands Council draft report recommends against high-voltage line
Nov. 18, 2008 -- Environmental groups call for state scrutiny of proposed power line
Nov. 11, 2008 -- PSE&G pulling end-run on power line, critics say
Oct. 28, 2008 -- North Jersey power line challenged over environmental concerns
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