Five towns join in fight against JCP&L transmission line project

The Township of Middletown will stand with four municipalities in a joint campaign to contest the proposed transmission line project by Jersey Central Power and Light (JCP&L).

Middletown, along with Holmdel, Hazlet, Aberdeen and Red Bank, will collectively pay for expert services in their bid to thwart the project, according to Township of Middletown Administrator Anthony Mercantante.

“The municipalities impacted are of the opinion that the proposed project isn’t necessary and thus should not proceed given all of its impacts,” Mercantante said.

The Middletown Committee passed a resolution authorizing the township pay an additional $19,200 for professional services done by the engineering firm Maser Consulting during a committee meeting on July 17.

The original contract amount for the company’s services was not to exceed $50,000. With the additional $19,200, the total professional services contract award amount for the company is $69,200, according to the committee agenda.

According to Mercantante, since the original contract amount was an estimate, once the experts at Maser were hired, more service time was needed than anticipated. That resulted in the additional sum of $19,200.

“Maser Consulting has a particular division that specializes in public utilities and they assess the need for JCP&L’s proposed transmission line and deliver technical information to our attorneys,” Mercantante said.

The municipalities are sharing the costs of paying for experts and lawyers with the township, according to Mercantante.

In September 2016, township officials met with three other municipalities affected by JCP&L’s proposed transmission line project for the purpose of intervening because of service, convenience and welfare of the public issues, according to the committee agenda.

Red Bank officials were not present, but that municipality did join in, according to Mercantante.

The township also hired attorneys from the Bevan Mosca and Giuditta law firm in 2016 for their expertise in this area, according to Mercantante.

The project, which JCP&L has entitled the Monmouth County Reliability Project (MCRP), is a proposed new, 10-mile, 230-kV transmission line, which if approved, is going to be built on an existing New Jersey right-of-way land that cuts through Aberdeen, Hazlet, Holmdel, Middletown, Red Bank and portions of other municipalities in Monmouth County.

Since the project’s launch, numerous county residents have voiced their opposition toward the project and have repeatedly expressed concerns about the project’s possible negative effects it could have on their health, the environment and property values.

“JCP&L is responsible for making sure that our customers have the reliable electricity they need, and the MCRP is necessary to continue to provide the service they deserve. JCP&L filed a formal petition for the MCRP with the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) and continues to participate in the legal process required for project approval,” said Stephanie Walton, a  spokesperson for JCP&L.

Residents Against Giant Electric (RAGE) is a non-profit organization that is comprised of citizens who has consistently voiced their disapproval towards the proposed project.

“RAGE … has raised $300,000 and counting to pay for legal counsel and expert testimony, that demonstrated a lower cost, less-invasive solution using existing infrastructure that wouldn’t harm the environment, health/safety of people or property values,” said Judy Musa, who is a volunteer spokesperson for RAGE and a Middletown resident.

The evidentiary hearings for the proposed project with presiding New Jersey Office of Administrative Judge Gail Cookson have concluded.

The next steps are that intervenors and the company will submit their closing statements to Cookson by Sept. 1, while all parties have until Sept. 25 to respond to the submitted documents. At that point, Cookson will have 45 days to render her recommendation based on the evidence to the BPU.
For more information about the MCRP, visit www.monmouthreliability.com.
For more information about RAGE, visit www.rage2016.com/about/ or the organization’s Facebook page.
Contact Vashti Harris at vharris@newspapermediagroup.com.