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Environmental groups try to halt controversial N.J. power project

By: Justin Zaremba |

The path of the controversial Susquehanna-Roseland trasnmission project is expected to proceed through several Morris County towns and three national parks, but a coalition of conservation groups are hoping to stop construction next month.

Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said national, regional and local conservation groups filed an injunction last week in federal court in Washington D.C. to halt construction of the power project until their lawsuit could proceed forth.

In 2010, the state Board of Public Utilities approved PSE&G’s plan to replace 240 squat power-line stanchions with the new towers, which are more than twice as high and carry more than three times the voltage due in part to increasing power demands throughout the region. The new transmission line is being built by PSE&G in New Jersey and Pennsylvania Power and Light Electric Utilities in Pennsylvania.

This past October, the National Park Service approved the expansion of the transmission line through an existing right-of-way by way of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, the Middle Delaware National Scenic and Recreational River and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.

Following the decision, conservation groups filed suit against PSE&G over the National Park Service’s approval of the project, claiming that it violated federal law.

The groups claim the project — which includes constructing new towers that would rise more than twice as high as existing towers, clearing trees, and constructing staging areas and access roads through the parks — would cause serious and enduring impacts on the parks, according to a news release.

“You have to demonstrate irreparable harm to get an injunction,” Tittel said Saturday. “When you stick a major power project in the middle of a national park, you’ve got irreparable harm. You’ll be cutting back on slopes, clearing trees and have an impact on birds and natural species. We think we have a good chance of getting it.”

In New Jersey, the line expansion begins in Hardwick Township in Warren County and extends through Sussex and Morris counties before ending in Roseland in Essex County. In Morris County, the transmission line will pass through Jefferson, Rockaway Township, Kinnelon, Montville, Parsippany and East Hanover.

Regarding the injunction, John Margaritis, a project director in Transmission Communications for Public Service Electric & Gas (PSE&G) told Northjersey.com, “We will oppose this action as vigorously as possible.”

Tittel said he expected arguments on the motion to proceed before the court by mid-January.

According to a news release, the motion to halt the project was filed by Earthjustice and Eastern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the Appalachian Mountain Club, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, New Jersey Highlands Coalition, New York–New Jersey Trail Conference, National Parks Conservation Association, Rock the Earth, Sierra Club and Stop the Lines.

In Morris County, towns such as East Hanover are also preparing for the power project.

In February, the township council will consider leasing land to PSE&G to use as a staging area for construction of the Susquehanna-Roseland power line project.

Township Administrator Joe Tempesta said the agreement wasn’t an indication the township endorsed the new towers since Mayor Joe Pannullo “has been adamantly opposed to that project.”

Pannullo, who told the Star-Ledger in 2010 that the towers were “an aesthetic nightmare,” said at the Dec. 3 meeting that the deal isn’t an endorsement of the project, but recognition that the project “(is) going to happen anyway,” East Hanover Patch reported.