Grid Operator Not Good to Go With PSE&G Transmission Proposal

Tom Johnson | July 29, 2014 | Energy & Environment
PJM wants to consider plans submitted by other 'finalists' in ongoing selection process

transmission towers
The regional operator of the nation’s largest power grid is not yet ready to sign off on a recommendation by its staff to select Public Service Electric & Gas to build a new transmission line from its nuclear plant stations in South Jersey to Delaware.

In a letter last week from the PJM Board of Managers, the grid operator said it will defer action on the proposal, indicating that it will review the matter further, exploring what other “finalists’’ in the selection process have proposed.

“To ensure a thorough and fair review, given the complexities of the issues, the board has determined that it will take the matter under advisement and defer selection at this time,’’ according to the letter. PJM expected to act on the project this month.

The project is the first transmission line to be competitively bid out by PJM, a process that attracted more than 25 proposals to upgrade the system, which is designed to address reliability problems in the region. The current transmission lines are pushed to the limits of how much power they can deliver.

The PJM staff recommended an 18-mile high-voltage line running from the Hope Creek nuclear power plant in Salem County to neighboring Delaware as the preferred route of the more than two dozen proposals submitted to the agency. The PSE&G project is estimated to cost between $280 million and $320 million.

PSEG, the owner of the utility, expressed disappointment with the delay but will comply with PJM’s request for additional information to aid in its analysis.

“We continue to believe that PSE&G’s proven track record of completing critical, large-scale transmission projects in environmentally sensitive areas best position us to complete this project,’’ said Paul Rosengren, a spokesman for the company.

Still, the project has raised concerns for the state Board of Public Utilities.

The proposed route would run through the Supawana Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Pennsville, the Alloway Creek Watershed Restoration site, the Abbots Meadow Wildlife Management Area in Elsinboro, and the Mad Horse Creek Wildlife Management Area.

Citing problems encountered by PSE&G with winning approval for the Susquehanna-Roseland transmission line through environmentally sensitive areas, the BPU in a letter to the PJM expressed similar concerns.

“The same may be true of the proposal to site transmission lines across the three New Jersey environmental-management areas, especially given that a viable alternative exists,’’ according to the BPU.

Environmental groups, which have been opposed to new transmission lines and gas pipelines traversing federal- and state-protected public lands set aside with taxpayer money, welcomed the decision by PJM.

“Our feeling is it’s a victory although it may be short-lived,’’ said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Anytime PJM does not rubber-stamp a power project is a victory.’’

Besides crossing land already set aside by the state and federal governments, the PSE&G proposed route — like others — would need to secure permits to build the line underneath the Delaware River, no small undertaking. The project would follow existing rights of way along existing transmission lines, although in some cases they would need to be expanded.