JCP&L loses fight for massive Monmouth County project — so what’s next?
The state's second-largest electric utility company received a thumbs down on Friday from state regulators on its years-long push for a high-voltage line between Aberdeen and Red Bank.
But the folks fighting for the project aren't yet admitting defeat. And those fighting against it have a feeling the war is not yet won.
Following a recommendation from an administrative law judge to reject Jersey Central Power & Light's Monmouth County Reliability Project proposal, the Board of Public Utilities at its latest public meeting decided not to let the plan move forward.
The utility had proposed the construction of a $111 million transmission line along 10 miles of NJ Transit's right-of-way in order to fix a code violation. JCP&L said the project would benefit 214,000 customers in the county.
Speaking to New Jersey 101.5 on Monday, JCP&L spokesman Ron Morano said the project, "as proposed," was not accepted.
"A determination of what comes next will be made after we review the written order," Morano said. "It's premature to speculate on what will happen next."
Morano noted that appealing the BPU ruling "is allowed by the process."
Residents Against Giant Electric, a grassroots organization that raised about half a million dollars in a legal fight to kill the project, had been arguing that JCP&L was more motivated by the promise of financial returns. Members dotted their yards and major roadways with signs denouncing "monster power lines."
Residents of towns through which the transmission line would pass were relieved and thrilled following the BPU's ruling, said RAGE member Judy Musa.
"They are thrilled to say that David won against Goliath," she said. "It was a solution looking for a problem, and obviously the BPU agreed with us and concurred with the judge."
Calling the proposal "untried and untested and likely infeasible," an administrative law judge in March ruled JCP&L had not proved the project is necessary. In the several months leading up to the recommendation, New Jersey 101.5 attended a pair of public hearings that featured a number of residents concerned about the potential effects of a nearby high-voltage line on their health and home values.
"JCP&L did us a favor because it brought people together in five towns to work for the same goal, to make their community better," Musa said.
Despite the ruling, RAGE is following the matter closely, Musa said, in case there's more than one round to the fight.
"The signs haven't come down, so stay tuned," Musa said.