[ back ]
Towns line up against power co.
power line is the Line in the Sand for us. 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,” said Jeff Tittel, director
of the Sierra Club’s NJ Chapter.
and a myriad of other environmental advocates, municipal leaders and
concerned residents were responding to what looks like an end pass
around them. Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G) is on the
brink of making a decision to sidestep the local approval path to its
proposed 500 kilovolt power line and instead opting to get the go-ahead
nod directly from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU).
only weeks ago that Rich Crouch, a PSE&G senior project manager,
told residents at a public meeting that the company is working hard to
promote the project. “There will be more town meetings before we do
anything, he said, “we want to get the approvals of local
government.” However, now according to leaders of key New Jersey
environmental groups PSE&G has all but abandoned its original plan
and is heading straight for a state board opinion.
with local opposition PSE&G last month initiated discussions with
the NJBPU seeking State approval for the line expansion. According to
NJBPU spokesman Doyal Sliddell while talks have begun, as of press
time, PSE&G had not yet filed a formal petition with the
board. “Any process before the Board would begin if and when the
utility files a petition with the NJBPU,” Sliddell said, “Board staff
would then proceed to gather information and build a record that would
be the basis for the Board's analysis and decision. 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.” Under state law, if the NJBPU
approves the line, PSE&G would not need approvals from local
PSE&G spokeswoman Karen Johnson did not return calls about the company’s decision to seek approval from the NJBPU.
Towns banding together
The municipalities that would be
impacted by the project have been trying to get involved but are having
a difficult time getting cooperation. Since the route announcement was
made in August PSE&G has been promising the 15 municipalities,
along the 45-mile swath that will carry Pennsylvania coal power across
the state, information about the impact on the environment, health,
property values and esthetics. And yet three months later there are
still more questions than answers.
municipalities have been frustrated with PSE&G, and their inability
to present clear, concise information to us regarding this project. We
have a number of concerns that have not been adequately addressed by
PSE&G,” said Montville Mayor Deborah Nielsen. “We are asking the
NJBPU to require that PSE&G return to the municipalities for
approvals, and to address the concerns of our residents through proper
hearings and public input.” Montville has been at the forefront of
activity regarding the project, passing a resolution of non-support on
Sept. 23, 2008 based on lack of information from PSE&G.
group has been formed to question the consequences of the plan and the
very need for so much additional power. On Oct.23 15 representatives
from Andover Township, Byram Township, East Hanover Township, Fredon
Township, Montville Township and Parsippany-Troy Hills Township met to
share and discuss their concerns regarding this project. From
that meeting was born the "Coalition of Concerned Municipalities."
power line will affect our residents and possibly our quality of life,
so we definitely need to get more information,” said Parsippany Mayor
At a press briefing, held
appropriately at Montville Chase, a townhouse community dissected by
the existing power lines, seven state and local environmental groups
gathered with members of the Coalition to make their case. Also on hand
were members of “Stop the Lines” a grassroots group formed to address
concerns in towns throughout North Jersey.
residents - especially those with children - are concerned about the
potential health hazards from increased Electro Magnetic Field’s,” said
East Hanover Mayor Joseph Pannullo. “This line crosses over
schoolyards, parks and playgrounds in our municipalities. While
PSE&G claims the health effects of EMF’s are ‘inconclusive,’ that
is not very reassuring to our residents. We do not want our children to
be guinea pigs for a new and untested line configuration.”
choosing to bypass local approvals and go directly to NJBPU for review,
the Coalition believes that discussion of local concerns, including
loss of public parkland and other publicly preserved lands, damage to
forests and wildlife habitat, health and safety issues and devaluation
of homes on or adjacent to the proposed line expansion is being
sidestepped. The Coalition’s six municipalities are reaching out to the
remaining municipalities along the route, as well as county and state
officials, in their effort to protect residents from the harmful
affects this could have on their communities.
cannot support or oppose this project without answers to our concerns,”
said Byram Township councilman Scott Olson. “We do not feel that
PSE&G has shown a proven need for this expansion, or that all other
options have been exhausted and this is the only viable alternative to
address their needs. And they have yet to prove the potential for
health effects are lessened or that the economic impact to our
municipalities and our residents will be addressed.”
A divergence of plans
Recently Governor Jon Corzine
announced plans to build a substantial amount of renewable energy
generation - more than 6,000 megawatts from wind, solar, biomass and
emerging renewable technologies by 2020. His goal is to reduce
the state’s overall energy use by 20% over the next 12 years, ensuring
no increase in energy demand between now and then.
proposed line expansion is in direct conflict with the state’s plan to
put New Jersey on the path to a more sustainable energy future,” stated
David Pringle, Campaign Director of the New Jersey Environmental
Federation. “The NJBPU and Governor Corzine have made major
commitments to clean energy solutions, and their decision on
PSE&G’s request to expand this line will be a test of those
The road to power
The utility company made its
announcement to choose Route B on Aug.5 following what they claimed was
“an extensive review” of three possible routes under consideration for
a new power line in New Jersey. The proposed $650 million project would
add a 500 kilovolt electric power line to the existing 230 kilovolt
lines and replace the existing 90-foot line towers with 180 to 190 foot
high monopoles. In the process the land surrounding the poles would be
clear-cut of all vegetation.
professes that the new Susquehanna-Roseland line, is needed to prevent
overloads and possible blackouts on the power grid, such as the one
that occurred in the Northeast in August 2003.
However an 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 is enough electricity, the environmental group said,
to power 800,000 or more homes. The group asserts that growth in the
state’s electric demand does not warrant such a large increase in
transmission capacity. Even conservative projections from the grid
operator, PJM Interconnection, 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.
Slaperud of “Stop the Lines” agreed that the scope of the plan is
overkill. “As local residents, we are concerned that 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 Slaperud.
The selected route cuts across some of the states most sensitive and valued resource land.
high-voltage power line proposed by PSE&G will have an enormous
impact on the Highlands Region. 200-foot high towers will destroy its
beauty and character, and cause considerable environmental degradation
during the construction process," said Julia M. Somers, executive
director of the Highlands Coalition. "PSE&G has tried to exempt
this project from the Highlands Act, which is almost as inappropriate
as their claim that this expansion is needed. It's not, given the
State's repeated commitment to renewable energy and conservation."
expansion of the existing power lines would require a minimum of 80
diversions of publicly preserved Green Acres land in the Highlands
region. It would cross at least 15 wetlands, seven areas with known
state and federally protected animal or plant species, 10 Natural
Heritage Priority Areas, several known pre-historic resources and four
heavily used visitor areas in the Delaware National Recreation Area
alone, including campsites, a picnic area and river launch.
begins in Hardwick Township, Warren County, proceeds east to Andover
Township, Sussex County, and on to Jefferson Township, Morris County.
The route continues east to Montville Township and then turns south to
Roseland Borough, Essex County. It follows an existing power line for
the entire 45-mile length and will pass through 15 municipalities:
Andover, Boonton Township, Byram, East Hanover, Fredon, Hardwick,
Jefferson, Kinnelon, Montville, Newton, Parsippany-Troy Hills, Rockaway
Township, Roseland, Sparta and Stillwater.
Cindy Forrest can be contacted at: email@example.com.
Staff photo by Cindy Forrest
The current PSE&G powerlines cut right through Montville Chase where the press conference on the latest news was held.
[ back ]