Decision on JCP&L power line expected later this year
The fight against a 10-mile high voltage transmission line through five Monmouth County towns has come down to the wire.
Unless Administrative Law Judge Gail M. Cookson asks for an extension, her initial decision on Jersey Central Power & Light’s proposed Monmouth County Reliability Project is expected in the third week of December.
The state Board of Public Utilities would then accept, reject or modify the decision, a step not expected until at least January.
It will cap a so-far 17-month battle by Residents Against Giant Electric, a residents’ group that has raised more than $400,000 to fight the proposal in Cookson’s courtroom, in thousands of pages of documents, public forums, NJ Transit meetings and legislative hearings.
“FirstEnergy is trying to pull a fast one on New Jersey’s BPU and ratepayers with this project, and only because of our strong opposition did the curtain get pulled back to show what they were doing behind the scenes,” RAGE’s president, Rachael Kanapka, told reporters Monday. She called the proposal “at worst, devious, underhanded, and greedy.”
The project is meant to provide JCP&L’s parent FirstEnergy with a guaranteed money-making transmission line, Kanpaka said. “Transmission lines are big moneymakers for utilities.”
Rates for transmission lines are set by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, she said, calling transmission projects “FERC candy.”
JCP&L says the Monmouth County Reliability Project, a third transmission line into Red Bank, would serve the area and improve system reliability. The 230-kilovolt transmission line between Aberdeen and Red Bank would run along the North Jersey Coast Line railroad tracks. NJ Transit has not yet decided whether it will allow the utility to place the line along its right of way.
PJM Interconnection, the organization that oversees the electric grid in 13 states and Washington, D.C., has identified it as a necessary project to reduce the length and frequency of outages in Monmouth County. JCP&L warns of the potential for extended, widespread power outages should the two other transmission lines that run into Red Bank, which are hung next to each other on the same structures, fail at the same time.
But Kanapka said one of RAGE’s experts, electric utility consultant P. Jeffery Palermo, found a “better way” to cure JCP&L’s predicament without spending at least $111 million on a new transmission line.
The alternative, proven after Palmero ran expensive simulations, involves the addition of two voltage regulators to manage voltage in the Red Bank substation. The other is the updating of 11 34.5-kilovolt distribution line circuits, the group said. The cost of the RAGE’s idea: $30 million.