PSE&G proposes controversial power lines


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The logo for the “No Monster Power Lines” petition

Corinne Flaherty

As a part of the 69kV statewide initiative, PSE&G has proposed to upgrade its electrical infrastructure by increasing the voltage of power lines from 26,000 volts to 69,000 volts.

This new transmission line would run along several residential streets in Westfield serving as a passage to transmit power to surrounding communities within the state. In order to install the new transmission lines, PSE&G will have to replace existing poles with 65-foot-tall poles, as well as cut down 54 trees and trim countless others.

The planned route of the new utility poles and transmission line stretches along Scotch Plains Ave., Shackamaxon Drive, Rahway Ave., Grove St., Central Ave. and Sycamore St.. Affected residents fear the disruption of the tree-lined aesthetic of Westfield could decrease their property values, as well as the power lines potentially having serious health effects.

According to a public statement made by PSE&G, “by installing stronger poles and state-of-the-art wires and other equipment, PSE&G has been upgrading its electric system throughout the state to withstand increasingly damaging storms due to climate change and to meet the demand for electricity.”

The project was mentioned at a public meeting on Jan. 28 with the mayor, town administrator and PSE&G executives and then further discussed on Feb. 26 at a town council meeting. At an additional meeting on March 20, Mayor Shelley Brindle continued to review alternative solutions as a result of the immediate outcry from Westfield residents.

Councilwoman Dawn Mackey of Ward 4 is actively participating to ensure the voices of affected residents are heard. Her efforts include a town meeting she held on March 7, with both the town administrator and PSE&G representatives present. Mackey made it clear to the community that the proposed construction was not to begin without PSE&G addressing residents’ concerns at the next council meeting.

“I appreciate all the community outreach and the residents need to know that this administration stands as one, united in the goal of stopping the current project and working with PSE&G to come to an acceptable resolution,” said Mackey.

Brindle is talking with surrounding communities including Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Cranford and Garwood. She is updating neighboring mayors on her discussions with PSE&G and once a foreseeable agreement is reached, Brindle will be meeting with them to discuss how they will proceed collectively.

Residents have outwardly expressed their concern and anger with this project. Over 1,600 people have signed a petition to stop PSE&G from beginning this construction. A website created by passionate Westfield residents called informs residents of the relevant risks that the new transmission lines and utility poles have on the community.

Mr. Ed Kevelson, one of the founders of the website and member of the citizens group, “No Monster Power Lines,” has been active in trying to stop the project.

“While we recognize that PSE&G wants to install more transmission lines in its territory, we don’t believe that running such lines through a residential neighborhood is an acceptable plan,” Kevelson told the Hi’s Eye. “Keep in mind that this transmission line will not directly serve anyone in Westfield; it will only enable PSE&G to transport power from one region to another.”

Many residents have voiced their concern regarding the potential health effects of the new poles. The electromagnetic fields that would emit from high-voltage power lines are very strong, and some worry they can cause harm. The National Cancer Institute has compiled a list of scientific studies that have found possible associations between high voltage emissions and the likelihood of childhood cancer.

Furthermore, wood utility poles are treated with pentachlorophenol. PSE&G’s project would require much larger poles with greater amounts of this chemical. The Environmental Protection Agency has labeled this pesticide as extremely toxic to humans, causing multiple short and long term health issues ranging from respiratory illnesses to cancer.

Despite the concerns regarding this project, Brindle, Mackey and Kevelson are all hopeful that an agreement between the town and PSE&G can be reached, leaving all parties content.