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Power company runs around town
It’s official. Public
Service Electric and Gas Company (PSE&G) has acted upon its
decision to circumvent municipalities and go directly to the New Jersey
Board of Public Utilities (BPU) for approval of its massive $650
million power project. As anticipated, PSE&G submitted its
application on Jan. 12 to the BPU to construct the proposed
Susquehanna-Roseland power line.
plan calls for a 500,000 kilovolt transmission line to be added to the
230,000 kilovolt line that runs along an existing path through 15 towns
and hundreds of acres of sensitive Highlands land carrying Pennsylvania
coal to New Jersey and beyond. The project under consideration
requires the lines to be enlarged and moved higher off the ground by
raising existing towers from approximately 90 to 190 feet high.
few months ago PSE&G held public meetings and vowed to appear
before municipal councils and boards to make their case and get local
approvals for the proposed power line. The utility had been
scheduled to give a presentation in Parsippany in January; however,
Jasmine Lim, the township’s business administrator, announced that
PSE&G had abruptly cancelled without an explanation or a reschedule
date. And so it seems that the resolve to get public buy-in on the
project has disappeared in favor of just one go ahead vote from a small
group of state officials.
The road to power
Now that the application has been
submitted the BPU will begin the process of gathering and sorting out
the countless issues, concerns and consequences of the new line,
according to BPU spokesman Doyal Sliddell.
staff will gather information and build a record that would be the
basis for the Board's analysis and decision,” Sliddell said. “That
gathering of information includes opportunities for the public,
including affected municipalities, environmental advocates, and other
stakeholders to provide information and share their concerns. As part
of that process, the towns involved may seek to become parties to the
case before the Board.”
state law, if the BPU approves the line, PSE&G would not need
approvals from local authorities. The law gives the BPU one year
to make a decision, if it fails to do so the utility can take their
case to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
will also need a decision from the Highlands Council and the state
Department of Environmental Protection as to whether the project falls
under the exemption clause of the Highlands Act and the Regional Master
Electric Utilities, which is building the Pennsylvania portion of the
line, filed an application for approval with the Pennsylvania Public
Utility Commission on Jan. 6.
Need or not
“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,” said Ralph
LaRossa, president of PSE&G.
that PJM Interconnection, L.L.C., the independent regional planning
organization, has determined that 23 transmission circuits will be
overloaded within its 15-year planning horizon if the
Susquehanna-Roseland project is not constructed and placed into
environmentalist dispute the scope of the project, the plan and the
process as they call for cleaner, more efficient means of providing
power in the Garden State.
analysis by Environment New Jersey finds that the proposed line
expansion has the potential to move at least 3,000 megawatts of energy
from coal states into or through New Jersey. That’s enough electricity
to power 800,000 or more homes. Growth in the state's electric demand
does not warrant such a large increase in transmission capacity, they
claim. Even conservative projections from the grid operator, PJM, show
peak demand in PSE&G's entire service area will rise by only 2,000
megawatts by 2020.
disputes that North Jersey's electricity highways are congested and
need relief to avoid price spikes and blackouts in the future. But New
Jersey's energy future should not be tied to dirty coal plants in Ohio
and Pennsylvania, when home grown renewable energy and energy
efficiency can provide the solution," said Dena Mottola Jaborska,
executive director, Environment New Jersey.
New Jersey estimates that if PSE&G were to invest $650 million, the
cost of the Susquehanna-Roseland line, it could buy at least 2,000
megawatts of energy savings through energy efficiency measures,
reducing all of the expected growth in customers' peak demand period.
Along that line Governor Jon Corzine has put in motion a strategy to
cut energy usage statewide and to build more clean energy generation
Deborah Nielson of Montville, a town that would be significantly
impacted by the new lines, also questioned the need. “Given
President-elect Barack Obama and Gov. Corzine’s green initiatives and
their endorsement of energy conservation measures I wonder whether
PSE&G’s projections for demand growth are valid,” she said.
PSE&G had investigated three possible construction routes and chose
the one that followed an existing path. The company claims that
its choice, Route B, will have the least environmental impact, least
impact on residential areas and least potential to alter wooded
wetlands and forested lands.
Once begun, construction would take about two and a half years to complete.
One municipality’s fight
Montville is one of many area
towns that joined the Coalition of the Concerned Municipalities last
year when PSE&G’s intention to take the approval process away from
the towns became clear. However, until the BPU begins its
deliberations these towns have no clear course of action.
really dismayed and upset that they went to the BPU," said Mayor
Deborah Nielson (sen), "so now we are assessing the situation. I’ve
asked our business administrator, Frank Bastone, to reach out to his
counterparts in neighboring towns regarding our next steps. I know we
want to get our comments on the record but I’ve spoken with the BPU
office and no public meetings have been scheduled yet. I have requested
that the meetings be held locally and not at their offices in Newark."
route announcement was first made last summer Montville was the site of
one of the first meetings held by the utility, however according to the
mayor the information that was requested then has never been received.
"There are still more questions than answers," she said, "we need this
information to make sure that the people of Montville are safeguarded."
logistic questions alone have elected officials keenly aware of the
uncertainties they face, such as the kind of machinery that would be
brought in to construct the giant towers needed to sustain the powerful
they bring in cranes, or helicopters?," asked Nielson. "Will they
destroy curbing, disrupt traffic? Some of the monopoles could require
40-ft. anchors in the ground made up of solid rock. Will they have to
Montville is one of the towns that would be most affected by the proposed power line, according to Nielson.
the most mileage of lines coming through our town. We estimated 6.9
miles and PSE&G has it at 7.6 miles either way those lines would be
running through the densest residential neighborhoods in our town. Then
there’s the impact on our aquifer and the fact that our middle school
is within 500 feet of the proposed line," she said. "Every single
public school child in this town goes to that school for three years.
Nielson said one of the questions posed to PSE&G is whether they
would consider relocating the lines away from the Robert R. Lazar
David vs. Goliath battle
The existing power line dates to
the 1920s and, according to La Rossa, needs to be upgraded with an
additional line. He claims that the new power line will benefit all
area residents and businesses, regardless of their local electric
company, by helping to prevent overloads in the regional grid
particularly during peak usage times such as hot summer days.
for some the gauntlet has been thrown. In addition to the fight at the
municipal level, environmentalists and citizens are making their voices
power line is the Line in the Sand for us,” stated Jeff Tittel,
director of the Sierra Club's NJ Chapter “We will fight to stop this
line because it is bad for the environment, climate change, pollution,
open spaces and consumers - it is just bad,"
A grassroots group called Stop the Lines also has been formed to combat the utility plan.
residents, we are concerned the line expansion will harm our health,
devalue our property, and despoil the environment. PSE&G's plan to
deal with an estimated 1.5 percent increase in peak demand with a more
than 300 percent increase in transmission capacity is unnecessary,
irresponsible, and profit motivated. Peak energy demand is only 50
hours out of the year, and should be addressed through conservation and
other available alternatives," said spokesman David Slaperud.
More information about the project can be found at reliabilityproject.pseg.com.
The selected route begins in
Hardwick Township, Warren County, proceeds east to Andover Township,
Sussex County, and on to Jefferson, Morris County. The route continues
east to Montville and then turns south to Roseland Borough in Essex
County. The line follows an existing power line for the entire 45-mile
length and will pass through 15 municipalities: Andover, Boonton,
Byram, East Hanover, Fredon, Hardwick, Jefferson, Kinnelon, Montville,
Newton, Parsippany-Troy Hills, Rockaway Township, Roseland, Sparta and
Stillwater. Under federal rules, the 51 million people who live in the
PJM territory will share the cost of the project. As a result, New
Jersey electric customers will pay for about 14 percent of the cost
while receiving the reliability benefits.
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