State asked to reject power project

45-mile PSE&G line is called 'excessive and unreasonable'
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
BY KRISTEN ALLOWAY
Star-Ledger Staff

The 45-mile, $650 million high voltage power line proposed for North Jersey would diminish renewable energy efforts, damage property values and potentially cause health problems, according to environmentalists and municipal officials who yesterday asked the state to reject the project.

Representatives from several North Jersey towns and statewide environmental groups met in Montville to denounce PSE&G's plan to build a 500-kilovolt line from Hardwick in Warren County, through Sussex and Morris counties to Roseland in Essex County.

PSE&G has said the line, which has met with vocal community opposition, is important to preventing overloads and blackouts on the power grid. The group urged the state Board of Public Utilities to oppose it.

"It's excessive and unreasonable," said David Slaperud of Stop the Lines, a citizens organization that opposes the project. "It seems to be motivated by corporate greed, not by public need."

PSE&G considered three possible paths for the line and announced in August it had chosen the Susquehanna-Roseland route because it would require minimal land clearing and disturbance. The company has already acquired the rights of way for the path, and the route parallels an existing power line.

The project includes installing towers that will be 180 to 190 feet high, replacing the 90-foot structures that now carry a 230-kilovolt line.

The opposition group met at a Montville condominium complex criss-crossed by existing power lines to criticize the PSE&G plan on several fronts. The township has seven miles of lines traveling through it, the largest amount among the 15 affected towns, Montville Mayor Deborah Nielson said.

The group said the money and effort being used on installing the new line would be better spent pursuing energy efficiency measures and renewable energy sources. They also charged that PSE&G recently moved to seek review by the state BPU, rather than obtain approvals by local land-use boards.

"The towers being proposed are twice the size (of the existing ones)," said Julia Somers, executive director of the New Jersey Highlands Coalition. "It will be an absolute scar across the Highlands."

A BPU spokeswoman said yesterday the board has not received a filing from PSE&G on the project. PSE&G spokeswoman Karen Johnson said the company has not decided whether to seek local or state approvals.

"Regardless of the approval mechanism, we will continue to have a sense of outreach with the towns. We are developing the next round of public workshops," Johnson said.

Environmentalists noted that Gov. Jon Corzine's energy master plan unveiled last week calls for the state to get 30 percent of its electricity from solar, wind and other renewable sources by 2020.

"We think the governor's plans make it unnecessary to expand the line as PSE&G wants to," said Dena Mottola Jaborska, executive director of Environment New Jersey. "Energy efficiency is the solution to the congestion in our energy grid."

The BPU said if it receives a petition from PSE&G, it may consider the proposal in light of the governor's plan.

"The State has taken the position ... that energy efficiency, demand response, and clean, local generation are the first tools we should call upon to ensure a reliable source of energy at an affordable cost," BPU spokeswoman Janeen Lawlor said in an e-mail. "What can be achieved through these options is something that the Board may consider while evaluating this petition."

Johnson said PSE&G and its parent companies continue efforts in renewable energy and conservation, and that the new transmission line would be used to help deliver that renewable power where it is needed.

The group also questioned whether the power lines' electromagnetic fields posed health concerns and would drive down property values. East Hanover Mayor Joseph Pannullo said in one township neighborhood near existing power lines, out of seven homes, six residents have cancer.

"It's enough to be skeptical," Pannullo said.

In speaking with residents there last summer, a PSE&G electromagnetic field expert said epidemiology studies have "gone in both directions."

"Based on our information, no direct or causal link has been established between electromagnetic fields and health effects," Johnson said.

If approved, the line would be completed in 2012.

Kristen Alloway may be reached at (973) 539-7910 or kalloway@starledger.com.


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