Hundreds of New Jersey residents filled an arena to voice their concern over a proposed high-voltage transmission line project that would run for miles through Monmouth County.
Wednesday night’s hearing had to be held in a gymnasium after a large turnout at a hearing in January meant there wasn’t enough time to allow people to comment.
There has been fierce resistance to the Monmouth County Reliability Project, which would see a 230-kilovolt transmission power line stretching for about 10 miles past neighborhoods and ecological sites, including the Navesink Watershed.
Poles reaching heights of 110 to 210 feet would be placed every 500 feet from a substation in Aberdeen Township down to Red Bank along the right-of-way of the New Jersey Transit’s Coast Line tracks.
Wednesday night’s meeting at Brookdale Community College’s Lincroft campus was scheduled to last nearly six hours, giving residents the opportunity to express their opinions about the controversial power line proposed by the Jersey Central Power & Light Co.
JCP&L says the power line is necessary to alleviate strain on the grid and prevent future blackouts for its 214,000 customers in Monmouth County.
"This is about providing our customers the power they need when they need it," JCP&L spokesman Ron Morano said.
The utility also says experts have determined the project is safe.
Judge Gail Cookson from the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law is overseeing the case. She’ll ultimately decide if the project moves forward as is or if it’s subject to revisions or even scrapped altogether.
Parties involved in the project were expected to sit back Wednesday night as the judge listened to people speak about the plan’s impact on their communities.
Some residents have voiced concerns about the health risks of exposure to electromagnetic fields and the potential for poles falling if a train derails. They’ve also expressed worries about lower property values if the power line is built.
Middletown resident Judy Musa balked at JCP&L's assertion that health risks associated with exposure to electromagnetic fields have never been proven.
"The jury's out. No one's proven that they're definitely not safe, or safe. So prove to me they're 100 percent safe," Musa said.