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Groups Seek to Reopen Electrical Transmission Line Decision

Construction of line would encourage dirty coal instead of clean energy
February 3, 2011
New York —

Clean energy advocates asked the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities today to reconsider a decision it made approving construction of a high-voltage electrical transmission line that would run from Berwick, Pennsylvania to Roseland, New Jersey. The line was approved on the faulty assumption that it would be needed to keep New Jersey’s lights on, but recent developments show this to be incorrect.

In April 2010, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities approved the 45-mile New Jersey portion of the line to prevent brownouts and blackouts that were projected to occur beginning in 2012. But since the Board’s decision, completion of the line has been delayed from 2012 to 2015, and PSE&G, the company that would build the line, has been forced to admit that interim fixes can solve any anticipated reliability issues.

“The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities approved this $750 million project because they were told the lights could go out without it.  Now we know that’s not true,” said Julia Somers, Executive Director of the New Jersey Highlands Coalition. “It’s time to take a fresh look at better and cheaper ways to meet our energy needs.”

In addition to the construction delays, PJM Interconnection, the regional grid operator that originally determined the transmission line was needed, last month revised its load forecast down significantly. PJM has acknowledged that it needs to revisit the alleged need for the PATH project, a similar transmission line, in light of lower load projections.

“The bottom line is that we are seeing permanent reductions in electricity demand,” said attorney Kevin Pflug of the Eastern Environmental Law Center.

“Energy efficiency and demand response programs are working, and that means we don’t need to pay for big new transmission lines to ship coal-fired power to New Jersey,” said Earthjustice attorney Hannah Chang.

The proposed 145 mile high-voltage transmission line is one of several planned lines that would bring power from dirty coal plants in Pennsylvania and West Virginia to urban areas in the mid-Atlantic region. Proposed high-voltage transmission lines running from coal country to Maryland and New Jersey threaten to flood eastern power markets with coal-fired power. Currently in the Northeast, coal-fired power plays only a minor role in the overall energy mix.

Earthjustice is joining the Eastern Environmental Law Center to represent Environment New Jersey, The New Jersey Highlands Coalition, Sierra Club, Stop the Lines, and New Jersey Environmental Federation in seeking to reopen the Board's decision approving the Susquehanna-Roseland line. These groups intervened in the original proceeding to challenge approval of the line and appealed after the Board approved it. The appeal is pending before the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court.

“New Jersey is in the process of adding thousands of megawatts of electricity from wind, solar, and natural gas; and in the meantime, conservation and efficiency measures are working. This power line expansion project is not needed and will hurt ratepayers and the environment,” stated Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “The Board needs to reconsider the Susquehanna-Roseland line because it is too costly, unnecessary, and will bring in dirty coal power from Pennsylvania.”

“Ratepayers should not be footing the bill to expand these coal-by-wire power lines. The Board has a responsibility to re-examine the need for this costly project, which will have serious environmental and public health impacts,” said Christine Guhl, Sierra Club Field Organizer.

New transmission lines that encourage use of outdated, highly-polluting coal-fired power plants undermine the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a cap-and-trade program that promises to reduce electric sector carbon emissions from Maine to Maryland. RGGI already is boosting energy efficiency and renewable energy development in the states that have agreed to participate in the program. Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia are not part of the RGGI and facilitating import of dirty electricity from these states to RGGI states undercuts environmental gains achieved through RGGI.

Read the motion.

Contacts

Kevin Pflug, Eastern Environmental Law Center, (973) 424-1479

Hannah Chang, Earthjustice, (212) 791-1881, ext. 233

Julia Somers, New Jersey Highlands Coalition, (973) 588-7190

Jeff Tittel, New Jersey Sierra Club, (609) 558-9100

Christine Guhl, Sierra Club, (609) 510-4684

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.