Contributed by Jeff Tittel, New Jersey Sierra Club
Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L) has faced a setback in building their transmission line in Monmouth County after Administrative Law Judge Cookson deemed that they did not meet the burden of proof for need. The case now goes to the Board of Public Utilities (BPU). The Sierra Club was actively involved in this issue, testifying and commenting numerous times against the project. The 145-foot, 10-mile long project would clear-cut areas behind the New Jersey Transit right-of-way in Red Bank, Middletown, Hazlet, Holmdel, Aberdeen and Matawan. We have opposed this project because it will cause unnecessary environmental damage, is a safety threat to the communities it passes, while wasting ratepayer money.
When you go up against the utilities and the BPU, it can be David vs. Goliath. This case shows us that sometimes, David wins. The judge has declared that JCP&L did not prove need for the project or properly look at alternatives. This is good news for environment, clean energy and people who didn’t want to see these massive lines ruin the viewshed.
This project, which has been turned down once before, was only about making money. There are other clear alternatives like putting the lines underground, nontransmission, smart grid technology and/or demand response. JCP&L did not investigate these alternatives. This project is not necessary for reliability. When they say this project is for “Reliability” it is because when they lie once, they re-lie again to convince us that it is needed.
This is a huge step in beating the massive and dangerous project meant to cross environmentally sensitive areas. It would threaten the Navesink River watershed as well as threatened and endangered wildlife habitat areas. We will continue to support opponents of the project and to work to see that it is cancelled permanently. We believe that the BPU should turn down this project and uphold the judge’s decision.
Communities opposed this project for multiple reasons, one of which was the significant impact to the aesthetic value of these communities and impact to their viewshed by building these huge transmission lines so close to their backyards. There will also be noise pollution during construction. Given the fact that people are concerned about threats to safety and potential health issues, this project has also created psychological pain for people living in this community, impacting the well-being of their families and children.
This is a good day for raptors because transmission lines are a major killer of these birds, like the state-endangered bald eagle and hawks. At night bald eagles have 3-4 times less vision capability than compared to the day time. This is a particular threat because they can fly into the lines and be strangled. We are very concerned that this transmission line will impact the bald eagle who has nests in the area.
We are also concerned about additional runoff, nonpoint source pollution, and flooding from clear-cutting the forested areas along the NJ Transit right-of-way. The access roads along the right-of-way to build this project will impact wetlands and wetlands buffers, as well as mature forest habitats where steep slopes exist. There will also be blasting in these geologically sensitive areas, causing the sedimentation of waterways.
JCP&L is trying to build massive projects like this one while ignoring the real problems with power in our state. After the two recent storms, tens of thousands of JCP&L customers in our state were without power. JCP&L should be investing in technology that will protect our communities and power grid. We are happy that the people won this case and have taken another huge leap towards stopping this project.
Jeff Tittel, Director
New Jersey Sierra Club
This article was first published in the March 22-29, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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