Pallone Voices Opposition to Monmouth County Reliability Project at Public Hearing
Long Branch, NJ – Today, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) voiced his opposition to the Monmouth County Reliability Project (MCRP) at a public hearing held at Middletown High School North in Middletown, NJ. The hearing was overseen by Office of Administrative Law Judge Gail M. Cookson, as part of the process to determine the recommendation she will be making to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) on whether the BPU should approve the MCRP. Pallone also asked that additional public hearings be held to ensure that all those potentially impacted by the MCRP have an opportunity have their voices heard.
Congressman Pallone is opposed to the project, as he was when the project was proposed over two decades ago. Last week in a letter to James Fakult, President of Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L), Congressman Pallone called on JCP&L to withdraw the proposed MCRP. The plan for JCP&L’s new transmission line would impact Aberdeen, Hazlet and Middletown in Pallone’s district and run along New Jersey Transit’s North Jersey Coast line.
Earlier this month, the state Rate Counsel released a number of technological alternatives that could increase reliability without requiring the construction of a transmission line like MCRP. Towns and community groups share this opposition to the project, including Residents Against Giant Electric (RAGE), who reached out to Congressman Pallone express their concerns. Residents in affected towns are worried that the project is harmful to the public health, environment, and economy of their communities.
Congressman Pallone's statement for the hearing can be found below:
Thank you Judge Cookson for holding this public hearing on the Monmouth County Reliability Project (MCRP). I also want to thank the many citizens of the communities this project would affect for making their voices heard tonight.
When this project was first proposed last summer, I voiced a number of concerns about the need for and effectiveness of this project. After careful study and consultation with my constituents, I come before you today to ask that you recommend that the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJ BPU) reject the MCRP.
My opposition to this project stems from two primary issues; my skepticism that the MCRP is the best and most cost-effective way to ensure reliability in Monmouth County, and the near universal opposition from the communities that would be affected by this project.
As you know, this proposal comes from Jersey Central Power and Light (JCP&L), which is a subsidiary of the Ohio-based FirstEnergy Corporation. The stated objective of the MCRP is to increase electrical reliability for customers in Monmouth County. The project is very similar to a project proposed some 25 years ago that was strongly opposed by local communities and groups before being withdrawn.
The MCRP includes constructing a 10-mile, 230-kilovolt transmission line, running from Aberdeen along the New Jersey Transit corridor right-of-way through several Monmouth County communities before terminating in Red Bank. In order for the MCRP to move forward, JCP&L must receive approval from NJ Transit to construct along its right-of-way in addition to securing the approval of the NJ BPU. . NJ Transit has not yet issued a decision on the MCRP.
Ever since this project was initially proposed, I have articulated concerns about whether constructing MCRP is necessary to accomplish JCP&L’s stated reliability goals. I do not question that JCP&L has had issues with reliability in this area over the years, and ensuring the reliability of electric utility services is indeed important. In the past, building a new transmission line may have been the only way to increase reliability. However, now there are other options available to meet reliability standards. Other options, including distributed generation and various new grid technologies, can not only increase reliability, but also modernize the grid, providing more flexibility and efficiency.
Unfortunately, it is clear that instead of exploring these alternatives, JCP&L determined that it wanted to build a transmission line, and that was that.
If JCP&L was serious about improving reliability with minimal disruption to the lives of those who live in the communities along the proposed route, it would have fully explored all alternative solutions which would satisfy the standards set forth by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC). A more complete assessment of all alternatives would enable NJ BPU and the affected communities to determine the most cost-effective and least disruptive option to accomplish reliability goals.
I am not alone in expressing misgivings about the MCRP. Earlier this month, the state Rate Counsel submitted a number of comments on the MCRP to the NJ BPU. The Rate Counsel questioned the necessity of the project for meeting its proposed goal of increasing reliability of the portion of the grid serving Monmouth County. In addition to describing the use of alternative technologies such as static compensators, distributed generation, and other new grid technologies, the Rate Counsel expressed concerns about how the proposed route was chosen and potential problems associated with co-locating the lines with NJ Transit railway service.
It is not just elected and government officials expressing concerns about this project. There has been continued opposition from communities along the proposed route. Ever since this project was proposed last year, my constituents have communicated their concerns about this project. One of the issues raised by community members is the impact the MCRP could have on the value of their homes. Specifically this relates to the height of the line and the poles that this plan states are necessary, which will be up to 210 feet tall in places. In November, I joined Congressman Chris Smith, NJ Transit Board Members, state and local representatives, and concerned citizens on a tour of the proposed power line route. I was able to see firsthand the proposed height and width of these poles, and I heard directly from the people who would be most affected by the completion of this project.
As I expressed in the letter I sent to JCP&L’s President, Mr. James V. Fakult last week, when all of these concerns and issues are put together, it is clear that MCRP is not the best or most cost effective way to increase reliability in Monmouth County. I believe, the company should explore other alternatives to constructing this disruptive project.
Judge Cookson, I respectfully ask that you advise NJ BPU to deny approval of the MCRP.
Thank you again for holding this hearing and for your consideration of my views and those of my constituents in this important matter.