The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) recently extended the time limit until Nov. 9 for it to render a final decision on Jersey Central Power & Light’s (JCP&L) proposed Montville-Whippany 230-kV Transmission Project.
As noted in the BPU’s Sept. 22 order, the BPU received the initial decision of the administrative law judge (ALJ) on Aug. 10; therefore, the 45-day statutory period for review and the issuing of a final decision would expire on Sept. 25. Prior to that date, the BPU said that it requests an additional 45-day extension of time for issuing the final decision in order to adequately review the record in the matter.
The ALJ, in the initial decision, concluded that the petition seeking approval for the project – filed with the BPU in March 2015 by FirstEnergy’s (NYSE:FE) JCP&L – be granted.
“I conclude that JCP&L has established, through significant and thorough testimony and evidence that the project is reasonable and is for the service, convenience, or welfare of the public,” the ALJ said.
As noted in the ALJ’s initial decision, the project consists of the construction of a new 230-kV transmission line traveling between the company’s Whippany substation in East Hanover, N.J., and its Montville substation in Montville, N.J., as well as upgrades to the substations themselves to accommodate the new line.
Lawrence Hozempa filed direct testimony on behalf of JCP&L in support of the petition, the ALJ said, noting that Hozempa testified that during PJM Interconnection’s 2012 Regional Transmission Expansion Plan (RTEP) process, a reliability criteria violation of NERC “Category C” was identified. NERC Category C contingencies are events resulting in the loss of any double-circuit bulk electric system (BES) transmission line, for instance, the ALJ said.
The specific violation would occur if there was an outage of JCP&L’s Montville-Roseland 230-kV line followed by the loss of either the Kittatinny-Newton 230-kV line with the 230-34.5-kV transformer and the 34.5-kV capacitor at Newton, or the Newton-Montville 230-kV line. Hozempa also testified that the proposed project would adequately address that violation, the ALJ added.
Hozempa testified that a NERC Category C violation could have penalties as high as $1m per day.
The ALJ added that Dave Kozy Jr., general manager for substation engineering with FirstEnergy Service Corporation, filed direct testimony on behalf of JCP&L in support of the petition, noting that the project consists of 13 segments, and that for most of the project’s length, the new 230-kV circuit would follow the path of an existing JCP&L 34.5-kV double circuit: the K-115 Montville-Whippany No. 2 circuit (K-115), and the O-93 Chapin Road-Montville-Whippany circuit (O-93).
The project would require construction on the Whippany and Montville substations, with the cost estimate of that work being about $1.2m for the Whippany substation, and about $1.1m for the Montville substation.
Kozy also testified regarding JCP&L’s assessment of placing the new 230-kV line underground instead of aboveground. According to Kozy, the ALJ added, JCP&L decided against placing the new line underground for several reasons: environmental impacts, restoration periods, cost, and capacity.
The total cost of the project as planned is about $35.5m, the ALJ said, noting that were the project to be installed underground, Kozy estimated that cost to be about four to 10 times as expensive.
Peter Sparhawk, associate vice president of Power and Energy for the Louis Berger Group, filed direct testimony on behalf of JCP&L in support of the petition, the ALJ said.
“Route A3” is the preferred route for the project because it is the shortest route of all those considered; parallels or rebuilds existing JCP&L transmission lines for most of the route; and minimizes new right of way (ROW) acquisition, according to Sparhawk. That route would also have the smallest environmental impact because of its proximity to existing transmission lines. The ALJ added that Sparhawk testified that he and the team believe that the cumulative social, environmental, and financial impacts associated with route A3 would be less than all other possible routes that were considered.
Among other things, the ALJ noted that the Montville Board of Education (BOE) argued that JCP&L has not established the electrical need for the project – “[s]pecifically, a single potential NERC Category C contingency violation is not only insufficient with respect to necessitating the project, but also that such an event is extremely unlikely and has not occurred in the past decade.”
The ALJ added that Montville BOE cites “no evidence in the record in support of this claim other than the direct testimony filed on behalf of JCP&L.”
The ALJ also noted that Wildlife Preserves posits that JCP&L has not met the required legal standards because the project does not intend to use existing ROW through the Troy Meadows area. The ALJ said that the record makes clear that JCP&L is using its existing ROW through the Troy Meadows area to the extent possible, with the relevant areas being located in “Segment 2” and “Segment 3” of the project, where JCP&L’s existing ROW is of a varying width. Certain portions of the project within Troy Meadows would fall entirely within JCP&L’s existing ROW, while other portions would maximize the available ROW, while also requiring the acquisition of additional ROW in order to accommodate the new transmission line and accompanying structures, the ALJ said.