A federal proposal to make New Jersey part of a special corridor for new electric power lines is cause for alarm, a state environmental group contends.
“This designation would give utilities the right to use eminent domain to acquire private property to build their lines,” said Jeff Tittel, head of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club.
It would also encourage the production and transmission of electricity from coal-fired plants at a time when the state is trying to promote clean and renewable energy, Tittle warned.
This week the federal Department of Energy issued a draft of a proposal designating all 21 counties in New Jersey part of a National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor.
The purpose of such corridors is to facilitate construction of additional transmission lines in areas deemed in need.
If approved, the designation would give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission authority to grant permission to construct power lines even if state regulators say no.
“These draft designations set us on the path to modernize our constrained and congested electric power infrastructure,” Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said in announcing the draft designations. “I am confident the department’s actions will help facilitate the infrastructure growth necessary to meet the demands of our growing economy.”
The proposed Mid-Atlantic National Corridor includes all of New Jersey, Delaware and the District of Columbia and parts of Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland and Virginia.
Tittel said that there are currently two major power lines being considered by private industry, one coming into New Jersey from the south, the other from the west, and both coming from regions where coal is a predominant source of electric power.
The draft corridors are deliberately broad to give states maximum leeway in deciding generating sources and transmission routes, the DOE said.
The corridor is so broad, Tittel countered, as to include both the environmentally sensitive Atlantic Highlands and the Pinelands.
A hearing on the Mid-Atlantic corridor proposal has been scheduled for May 23 in New York City.
By Richard Pearsall
28 April 2007
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