Source: Star Ledger (www.nj.com/news/ledger/morris/)
PSE&G offers options for high-voltage line
Public Service Electric & Gas Co. announced yesterday three possible routes for a 50-mile-long, high-voltage power line, needed to help satisfy the state's growing ap petite for electricity, through Morris, Sussex, Warren and Essex counties.
PSE&G is partnering with Pennsylvania-based PPL Electric Utilities to build the 500-kilovolt Susquehanna-Roseland line, company officials said. The $650 million, 130-mile transmission line, which will connect switching facilities in Roseland and Berwick, Pa., will help prevent overloads and blackouts on the power grid.
"People are using more electric ity to power up everything from big-screen TVs to the latest kitchen appliances," company president and chief operating officer Ralph LaRossa said in a statement issued yesterday.
He said the new line is crucial to preventing blackouts on the power grid like the one that left tens of millions stranded in the heat, from New Jersey to Ontario, in August 2003.
"We will do our best to select the route that has the least impact on communities and residents," LaRossa said.
The company expects to select the new route by next month and complete the project by 2012.
PSE&G estimates the cost, to be shouldered by customers in 13 states, will amount to an annual increase of $3.30 for the average New Jersey customer.
While the cost may sound good, the path of the power line raised eyebrows in some towns yesterday. Some local officials questioned whether the high-voltage line would pose health hazards. Transmission lines emit electromagnetic fields, PSE&G officials have said, though there do not appear to be any direct effects on health.
Montville Mayor Deb Nielson questioned whether the new project would endanger residents who live in homes located under exist ing power lines. In East Hanover, Mayor Joe Pannullo vowed to op pose the project if it meant any new lines would be added near homes.
"I know if it was my house, I would be upset," Pannullo said. "I've been living here 37 years, and all of a sudden you want to make a change that will affect my family's life? They better come up with some good facts."
Warren County planning direc tor David Dech spotted potential problems with the map yesterday. One of the possible routes would run from White Township through Hackettstown. He said the line apparently cuts through an age-restricted housing complex in White Township. The line also appears to cross the county landfill in Oxford and the state's Pequest Trout Hatchery lands in Oxford and Mansfield. And the line could create headaches in Hackettstown, where the path appears to come close to some apartment buildings, he said.
"Looking at the map, I'd say we could have some considerable concerns," Dech concluded.
According to a map on the company's website at reliabilitypro ject.pseg.com, the three routes would cross 31 towns in the region including Denville, Rockaway, Kinnelon, Hanover, Morris Plains, Kinnelon, Roxbury, Randolph, Sparta, Wantage, Chester Township and Hackettstown.
East Hanover, Parsippany and Roseland Borough are common to all three routes.
Of the three routes, PSE&G already has right-of-way permits for the route that would extend from Hardwick in Warren County to Roseland in Essex County, according to company spokeswoman Karen Johnson. If one of the other two routes is picked, however, PSE&G would need to obtain permits and build new towers, she said.
The project was approved last June by grid operator PJM Interconnection as part of a larger project after a company study showed the region could see capacity problems as early as 2013, according to PJM spokesman Ray Dotter.
Still, some environmental ex perts question the need for the new power lines. Mark Brownstein, managing director in the climate and air program at Manhattan- based nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund, has been following the project since it was proposed and said the new transmission lines could impact the state's ability to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
"I think you have to balance the claims that the project will improve reliability, against the very real environmental concerns it raises," he said.
Public hearings will be held later this month in each of the three counties, including the following:
# Sussex County -- Monday, June 23, 4 to 8 p.m. at the Sussex County Community College, 1 College Hill Rd., Newton.
# Warren County -- Wednesday, June 25, 4 to 8 p.m. at the Warren County Community College, 475 Route 57 West, Washington Township.
Staff writer Al Frank contributed to this report. Leslie Kwoh may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (973) 539-7910. Bill Swayze may be reached at email@example.com