PSE&G Power Line Work Starts Without Final OK

Instead of starting work on $790 million project before getting final approval, how about clearing trees along power lines?

Construction has begun on Public Service Electric and Gas Co.'s transmission line upgrade through Northwest New Jersey.

That would seem to be slightly premature, as the National Park Service still technically has not given final approval for the work—upgrading the existing 230-kilovolt transmission line for about 45 miles, adding 500 kilovolts onto towers that would be as tall as 195 feet in some cases.

The park service's approval is only for its property, but it is still critical, given the line runs smack through the Delaware Water Gap. And while the NPS won't make a final decision for at least a month after releasing its environmental impact statement—expected sometime this month—its approval appears to be a given.

Still, it has not been granted and legal appeals are pending, as well.

The line is, however, already way behind schedule: When PSE&G initially proposed it, officials estimated it would have been completed by now.

So the utility announced it has begun preliminary work in Andover Township, Boonton Township, Byram, Jefferson, Hopatcong, Kinnelon and Montville. The work, which ranges from surveying in some places to site clearing and grading and foundation drilling in others, will continue through the end of the month.

The idea of clearing trees and other vegetation, as well as drilling, does not sit well with environmentalists and others who have been fighting the project for years. They were angered by the NPS' reversal earlier this year of its initial determination that no work would be best for the park after PSE&G agreed to pay roughly $40 million to compensate for any loss or damage to parkland.

Opponents contend the upgrade is unnecessary. They point to a decision by PJM Interconnection, the regional transmission organization, just last month to delete two other projects in the Mid-Atlantic states from its plans. The economic downturn had brought a reduction in the demand for electricity, negating the need for the projects. That has happened in New Jersey, too, according to opponents.

But PJM says nothing has changed the need for the upgrade of the line from Susquehanna, Pa., to Roseland. What's the truth? Supposedly the work was needed to prevent power outages. There were none this year. That doesn't mean there won't be any in the future, but so far, PJM's predictions have not come true.

Opponents say the dice were stacked against them from the start, including the agreement by the Obama administration to place this project on the fast track. That was further proven when the NPS changed its mind from preferring a no-build alternative to the current route upgrade. They also complain the work supports the continuation of dirty coal power by bringing it to New Jersey and beyond, when the state and nation should be looking toward cleaner alternatives.

It seems unquestionable that massive towers will mar the beautiful viewscapes in many places. How dangerous the lines are remains in question, with experts arguing on both sides of the issue. Construction will damage wetlands and other natural areas. But if that's what it takes to prevent widespread blackouts, isn't it worth it?

Right now, the only thing standing in the way of full construction is the final park service decision, unless the opponents can convince a judge to issue an injunction while the case works its way through the courts. PSE&G obviously thinks the odds are in its favor, given it has started work. It would be a huge waste of money, not to mention environmental gems, if they're wrong.

But don't forget that it won't help anyone if the electricity that travels along these massive wires from Pennsylvania can't get to individuals' homes because tree limbs bring down the lines to neighborhoods and homes during storms like the two North Jersey faced last year.

Isn't burying some lines and clearing overgrowth along others, which clearly need to be done regardless of demand, where utilities should be putting more of their resources now?

Bruce September 18, 2012 at 01:32 AM
Correct! The only time we lose power is during a storm when trees along right-of-ways in need of maintenance fall on their lines. Hey... here's an idea! How about taking some of that $1.2 billion earmarked for this project and doing a little housekeeping along the right-of-ways? This way, we wouldn't lose power for 2 - 3 days at a clip! And, gee, if they'd hire more crews to do this, they would actually be creating jobs! Naaaah... makes too much sense, now that I think about it!
The Watcher September 18, 2012 at 02:30 AM
PSE&G buying local properties saugenstein@njherald.com As the Susquehanna-Roseland power line issue buzzes through northwestern New Jersey, PSE&G has made some tactical land purchases along the 45-mile route -- at no likely financial risk. The power company has bought three properties along the route, totaling more than $2 million and 150 acres. A fourth is under contract, but awaiting a closing. Two of the four properties are houses -- one was a Fredon home directly beneath the existing power lines that sold for $535,000 in December, and the latest one under contract is a house on Larikat Lane in Sparta. The owner of the Larikat Lane house is in the process of leaving the house, but declined further comment about the sale price. The company will NOT lose money on the purchases, regardless of the result of the power line proposal. Because the Susquehanna-Roseland plans have been described a "reliability" project, PSE&G will be REIMBURSED by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for any such land or home purchases -whether or not the application is approved by the state's BPU. "We are purchasing these properties now to ensure that we can meet our in-service deadline of the summer of 2012," said Karen Johnson,for PSE&G. Energy commission spokeswoman confirmed 100 percent reimbursement, but would need to be approved on a case basis for PSE&G's plan. Johnson also said profits of any properties PSE&G would resell at any point would be credited to the company's ratepayers.
Madison Station September 18, 2012 at 02:36 AM
And what happens when it floods? The power goes out.
Madison Station September 18, 2012 at 02:45 AM
Power usage is expected to decline? Umm... an uptick in the economy when Romney gets elected and emissions standards leftover from the Obama administration that force all carmakers to make plug-in hybrids mainstream will cause extreme levels of power brownouts, blackouts and unaffordable prices.
Madison Station September 18, 2012 at 02:51 AM
Bruce - Jefferson Twp. isn't exactly a quaint town. It has out of control commercial sprawl and some seedy businesses. Furthermore, I can't believe the state Ok'd two traffic lights on Rt. 15. That is 10 times worse to me than larger electric line towers. Another 3 days of my life wasted so some idiot can make a safer left turn onto a one way road.
The Watcher September 18, 2012 at 03:43 AM
The "new" lines need to be worked on while they are still live by a man hanging off the side of a helicopter.
spokey September 18, 2012 at 03:26 PM
"Supposedly the work was needed to prevent power outages. There were none this year. That doesn't mean there won't be any in the future, but so far, PJM's predictions have not come true." Funny. I've had several outages this year. Perhaps the writer can send me some of his juice. For those suggesting wind; stig is right. There still needs to be transmission. Oh, and I assume you all have switched your electricity to the higher cost 'green' choices. If not, seems a bit hypocritical. Finally, this stuff can take years. I don't necessarily trust PSE&G not think they are particulalry well run, but our electrical grid is a disaster. The interconnects are ancient technology etc. I don't know that this addresses any of this, but we need the job done. Personally I favor micro-nukes which should reduce some of the need for massive transmission lines. But I'm guessing most of you don't want that low cost, efficient, power generation either.
The Watcher September 18, 2012 at 04:04 PM
PSE@G is not spending it's money it's spending OUR money. The profits will go back to IT's shareholders not us. Spokey your outages were caused by the weather not by shortages. What is the half-life of your mini-nukes? "The company will NOT lose money on the purchases, regardless of the result of the power line proposal. Because the Susquehanna-Roseland plans have been described a "reliability" project, PSE&G will be REIMBURSED by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission"
Denobin September 18, 2012 at 04:58 PM
@ state park: If oyu bought a place next to an existing right of way you have to suck it up. It's like the bozos who buy an estate next to a farm for the "country living" and then complain about the smell. Too bad.
spokey September 18, 2012 at 05:00 PM
watcher, you are correct about the weather. But then again we are asked to conserve during heat waves. Asked to turn off air conditioning while at work, etc. The electric company offers discounts for people who will install smart meters, allow the company shut down their air conditioners if needed etc. Seems to me all that indicates shortages. I don't know anything about mini-nukes or even if there is such a thing. The life span for micro-nukes is around 30 years. Some info on a Toshiba proposed for Galena AL. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toshiba_4S
The Watcher September 18, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Spokey this energy is going to NYC not to NJ at no cost to the power company, and all the profits to the stockholders, not the people who have to look and deal with the over 180 ft high towers that have to be fixed with a guy hanging off the side of a helicopter. As for the micro-nukes (sorry I typoed mini) you are left with storage of radioactive material for 30 years (according to your source). BTW wikipedia is not allowed in schools as resource material.
spokey September 18, 2012 at 06:36 PM
watcher; "Spokey this energy is going to NYC not to NJ " One of our country's problems is the rampant parochialism. Although I don't have much use for NYC, other people do. including NJ dwellers. And I'll bet even some of those near those power lines. "wikipedia is not allowed in schools as resource material." Good thing I'm not currently in a school then<g>. Seriously, though I agree it often has mistakes, but then again so does every other resource I use. And I'd be really surprised if every last school of any kind in this country bans the use of wikipedia. So rather than an ad hominen attack on wikipedia (hmm is that even possible?), perhaps you could point out the errors for the edification of us all.
Bruce September 18, 2012 at 08:07 PM
O.K., I'm going to venture into VERY dangerous territory here... here goes... don't count on Romney (if elected) to turn the economy around, at least not anytime soon. I'm not a big fan of the Dems, but you may recall the economic meltdown came to a head under Bush Jr. (Republican) and as he was exiting office after 8 years. As for those traffic lights on Rt. 15, if you live here and travel that road as much as I do, you should appreciate them... can't tell you how many times I've almost been creamed at those intersections on the northbound and southbound sides!
Freda's Sugar Daddy September 18, 2012 at 08:52 PM
Bruce. Where do you think we get electricity from? A wall outlet? You must be from Jefferson.
The Watcher September 18, 2012 at 09:33 PM
Spokey I was not attacking you. As far as NYC, do we really need all those advertising lights? That electricity is not being used to do work or for air conditioning etc. As for Wikipedia I was hoping you could give us more information from other more generally acceptable sources. I for one am not for burying more radioactive materials, we've had enough radioactive accidents already. We have radioactive materials washing up on the shores of the West coast now.
Bruce September 18, 2012 at 09:40 PM
Freda's Sugar Daddy - How the heck does your comment back to me have anything to do with the subject at hand?? And, I AM from Jefferson, and weez up in deez here parts git are 'lectric from hampster wheels! Get serious, please!
Andy Thompson September 19, 2012 at 01:29 AM
At some point old infrastructure needs replacing so eventually the towers will need replacing OR the wires go underground. PSE&G could put the lines in the ground using the existing right if way if they wanted, of course in NJ that may involve rock excavation which is expensive. And funnily enough in other places they don't fail when it rains, amazing eh. Question is whether the current plans are necessary, probably not right now. Trimming and local underground work would be more effective for the bill payers, but not the shareholders of course.
Madison Station September 19, 2012 at 02:42 AM
Do you know if it's even possible to bury 500kv lines? I see rocks exploding from steam pressure when things heat up...
Edward P. Campbell September 19, 2012 at 11:30 AM
PEOPLE – Get a grip! Why is it so many Americans are more than happy to spend 50 or 60 grand on a luxury car, but think the luxury of the best health care in the world, or the luxury of a reliable power system should be free to us? Get a GRIP! THINK!
Edward P. Campbell September 19, 2012 at 11:37 AM
Bruce – Yes, Yes, they can and should be buried! However, if they were to do that, you wouldn’t be able to afford your power bill, unless of course you’ve busted you behind, worked hard, acted thrifty, invested wisely, and became one of those ugly one percenters!
Edward P. Campbell September 19, 2012 at 12:11 PM
GOOD NEWS – All of you who think the “Shareholders” are making out so well in PSE&G, now you too can be a shareholder for just $31.39! Jump in get rich!
The Watcher September 19, 2012 at 03:38 PM
We do not have PSE&G we have JCP&L NYC is getting the electricity and we are getting the lines and all that goes with it.
PJ_Wolf September 20, 2012 at 12:26 AM
The rich get richer and the little man has less and less of a voice, too many fat cats and politicians/oversight boards in bed with private sector corporations - the "American" way. Queensryche said/sang it best......
The Stig September 20, 2012 at 02:50 AM
Burying lines under ground costs a fortune, and repairing them when they fail can be very time consuming and much more expensive. All these costs are borne by the rate payers. Same for the loss of electricity when the lines go out. If you want power companies to stop increasing their transmission capacity, stop using more electricity! Get rid of your AC, fridge, TVs, PC, lights and other non-essentials.
Joseph Keyes September 20, 2012 at 03:11 AM
The topography of our township presents significant challenges for underground electrical service—i,e., $$$ . Some homes in the township have such service because developers absorbed the costs of providing it. The rest of us depend on power hanging from poles, subject to wind, ice, and snow.
The Watcher September 20, 2012 at 03:42 AM
The lines have to be worked on while they are still LIVE
EMG September 20, 2012 at 12:01 PM
I live over on Schneider and the work they are doing is so loud. Its bad enough that they are even doing it to begin with, but starting at 7am and ending at 5, all I hear is LOUDNESS. Add to that the workers screaming at each other above the machinery noise, including the F-bomb dropped at least 20 times each day. The whole thing sucks.
CAE November 06, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Regardless of how I feel about this project, I can not help but question why it went back into full swing immediately following the storm, given there are so many PSE&G customers still without power.
Bruce November 06, 2012 at 05:20 PM
Would love to hear how PSE&G justifies this! Certainly tells you something about their priorities, eh?
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