Raise awareness of environmental health issues in order to better protect our children and future generations.

EMF Studies

26 January 2017

New Jersey: Residents Blast 'Monster' JCP&L Power Line Plan with 200-Foot Towers

"I am opposing this because it is a threat to public safety, public welfare and public health."

Residents blast 'monster' JCP&L power line plan with 200-foot towers
by Rob Spahr | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
26 January 2017

MIDDLETOWN - More than 1,000 residents turned out Wednesday in opposition to Jersey Central Power & Light's plan to install towering power lines along a NJ Transit right-of-way between Aberdeen and Red Bank.

Four hours later, however, only a handful of residents, who were not elected politicians or a member of a group, had been given the opportunity to voice their concerns in front of the administrative law judge handling the case.

Two representatives from JCP&L were the first to speak about the Monmouth County Reliability Plan, which calls for the installation of a 230,000-volt line and tall poles ranging from 110 to 210 feet high that would be placed every 500 feet between Aberdeen and Red Bank along NJ Transit's North Jersey Coast Line.

The next two and a half hours consisted of testimony from several elected politicians, spokespeople from organizations both for and against the plan, and representatives from the official parties involved in the litigation of the plan.

Those in the lawsuit include the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders, the towns and school districts the project would run through and a grassroots group of local residents that calls itself "Residents Against Giant Electric" or RAGE.

"I am opposing this because it is a threat to public safety, public welfare and public health," said Rachael Kanapka, a spokeswoman for RAGE. "The tremendous and irreparable damage it would bring to the community far outweighs any public benefit JCP&L suggests it could offer."

Kanapka and many of the other opponents urged the judge to recommend the rejection of JCP&L's plan due to the negative impact the "monster" towers would have on property values for the hundreds of households along the project's planned path. They also cited health, environmental, mass transit and public safety concerns.

Assemblywoman Amy Handlin (R-Monmouth) said the fight against this project is not new, but began in 1989 when JCP&L pitched essentially the same project. She also questioned the need for the line, adding the existing lines have "been extremely reliable with an up time of 99.9 percent."

"Just as the company insists now, it claimed over two decades ago that without these mega transmission lines our community ... could expect continual blackout, brown outs and a frighteningly unreliable power supply," Handlin said. "Because of massive public protests JCP&L backed down. And what disasters actually befell us? None, absolutely none!"

With the exception of a few children who were given the opportunity to speak out of order due to it being past their bedtimes, it was not until after 10:45 p.m. that the first resident who was not representing a group or organization had the opportunity to speak.

Bernice Curto, who said the proposed transmission lines would be 70 feet from her tree-lined Middletown home, called JCP&L's plan "shameful".

"Please reject this abomination and alleviate any more anguish and suffering in our communities," Curto pleaded to the judge. "Allow us to return to our families and our lives. Hear our cries for your help."

Most of the people who spoke, including all of the elected officials, were opposed to the plan, as was a clear majority of the often-unruly crowd in the auditorium. The judge had to plead with the crowd on several occasions to quiet down.

The meeting ended shortly after 11:15 p.m., which added to the frustrations of many the members of the public who stayed for more than four hours but were not given the opportunity to speak.

"How can you have a public hearing and only let five members of the public comment?" one man shouted out at the judge. "I just wanted a chance to speak!"

The public hearing format also drew criticism from opponents to the project who claimed that after the high school's auditorium and overflow seating in the cafeteria were at capacity, hundreds of other concerned residents were left standing outside.

Administrative Law Judge Gail Cookson reassured the public that their comments could still be submitted in writing and that she would look into the possibility of another hearing being held.

Prior to Wednesday night's meeting, JCP&L officials and experts met with members of the media for an information session during which they addressed concerns expressed by critics and residents alike.

"We appreciate the concern of the residents and we took that concern into our filings with the BPU," JCP&L spokesman Todd Schneider said. "Our studies show that the least impact to this community would be putting a line down the right-of-way."

Scott Humphrys, a supervisor with the utility company, said the project will ensure that more than 50 percent of Monmouth County will have its reliability improved.

He claimed it will have little impact on property values because the towers will be built on an existing corridor and not on individual properties.

Critics have also expressed fears over whether the electromagnetic fields emitted by power lines pose a serious health threat to those who live nearby.

Ashley Brown, executive director of the Harvard Electricity Policy Group and a former utility commissioner, said there is more electromagnetic exposure in common household appliances than the power lines.

Schneider added: "The bottom line, there would be no impact on health."

PJM Interconnection, the regional power pool that oversees the electrical grid across 13 states including New Jersey, has called the project necessary to reduce the length and frequency of service disruptions in Monmouth County.

The senior director of system planning for PJM, Paul McGlynn, said different alternatives were considered but "they're really not practical."

"Some of the lower-voltage lines don't have the capability that's required to address the issues that we have," McGlynn said.

As for the option to build under-ground power lines, Humphrys said that process would have more of an environmental impact because of the excavation needed to install the lines underground.

"There's more disruption excavating than putting a pole in," he said, adding that it would also be harder to identify the cause of a power outage.

--NJ Advance Media's Alex Napoliello contributed to this report.

Rob Spahr may be reached at rspahr@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheRobSpahr. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


http://www.nj.com/monmouth/index.ssf/2017/01/controversial_jcpl_plan_draws_outpouring_of_opposi.html

No comments:

Post a Comment