TUESDAY 4/11 UPDATE -- OAL HEARINGS
We are getting pretty good at knowing when to leave in the AM to get to Newark as quickly as possible. Also have made friends with the attendant at the parking lot behind the OAL, and with Tony, the OAL security guard who is responsible for the 4th floor, where the hearing room is. :)
Today we finished up the JCP&L witnesses Sparhawk (route selection) and Irving (economic impact to the state) and put our own first witness, Dr. Carpenter, up on the stand for cross-examination.
Our attorney Peter Dickson finished up his cross of Sparhawk and by cross-referencing invoice dates with the study "phases," revealed that the alternative routes that were theoretically considered by JCP&L were really barely looked at, and were not given a fair shake at all. The judge herself asked some very detailed questions based on her own scrutiny of the 300+ pages of invoice details. And the towns' attorney Bill Mosca used the invoice data to show that JCP&L spent only about $1400 evaluating each of the 17 alternatives. At an hourly rate per person of $60-$130 per hour, even more for senior folks, that is not a lot of time to visit and do any sort of in-depth evaluation of multi-mile routes on multiple criteria to determine if they would be a "good" candidate. As we noted yesterday, many were eliminated right out of the gate for reasons that included a lot of "probablys" and "potentials" without ever checking with the powers-that-be that would have had the ultimate say. In one part of their testimony they throw out running along the Garden State Parkway as a no, saying that the NJDOT would "probably" not allow it... and then Rate Counsel asked them if they were aware that another utility, Atlantic City Electric, had an existing line that runs along the GSP already? Oops, probably should have done your homework on that one, JCP&L. They ruled the GSP out without asking, yet they ruled IN the NJT route without ever really clarifying if they would be open to letting JCP&L shoehorn a giant transmission line over the heads of their customers in their narrow rail ROW.
The last JCP&L witness to take the stand for cross was Irving, their "economic benefit to the state" analyst. He had a complex model for determining what the positive "income" to NJ would be because of this project. What came out in his cross was that not all the income would be coming to NJ (all materials would be purchased out of state, for example), that no permanent jobs would be created (whereas investments in distribution maintenance or renewables could mean permanent jobs), and that he was not asked to do an analysis of any alternatives except running a new 230kv line along the NJT tracks. Oh, and of course, he did not include any NEGATIVE economic impact this project would bring, say on property values of thousands of homeowners, that would easily top $100 million.
RAGE's first witness to take the stand for cross-examination was Dr. David Carpenter (read his full pre-filed written testimony here: http://www.rage2016.com/2017/03/29/read-...) Dr. Carpenter acknowledged the two sides of the fence of the EMF issue, and summed up the difference in one statement: When you look at the studies that the utilities are funding, you find that they draw conclusions of no harm. When you look at the studies that are independently or government-funded, you find the opposite. Guess which side has more money to spend on "research"? You wouldn't trust the cigarette companies telling you that cigarettes are safe, and you shouldn't trust the utilities telling you EMFs are not dangerous.
Tomorrow more RAGE witnesses are up: our property value expert Dr. Moliver, our electrical engineer Jeff Palermo, and the photo simulation specialist from the company that did before and afters for us. Here is some more info on them: http://www.rage2016.com/2017/03/10/meet-...
JCP&L will get to cross examine them. After that, there is a chance more re-questioning or re-rebuttal statements will happen based on what they say. There is a chance we may end tomorrow, but possibly not. We won't know til tomorrow. There is also a chance that another day of hearings might be scheduled for later in the month, if more follow-up is in fact needed with specific witnesses, depending on their availability.
After that, all the parties' attorneys have to submit a summary brief; basically their closing statement in writing. I think the attorneys have something like 10 days to submit that after the close of the hearings. Then the judge has 45 days to make and write up her initial decision, which will be sent to the BPU. And from there, the BPU commissioners and staff review all the fact-finding she has done and the record that has been created, and the commissioners make a final ruling, which will happen at one of their monthly board meetings (which are open to the public.) We'll keep everybody posted.
A frequent request many made at the public hearing was for Judge Cookson to come see the route and our neighborhoods firsthand. RAGE filed a formal motion requesting that a few weeks ago (before the public hearing) and we expect her to rule soon after the evidentiary hearings (also called the plenary hearings) end. I am very optimistic she will come down and see for herself where JCP&L wants to force their massive transmission line. I have a running list going already of specific locations we'd like her to make a stop at, but if you have suggestions, please share in the comments! I know several people have offered their homes already, and I truly, truly hope she accepts the invitation to literally walk in the footsteps of some of the RAGERS in their own backyards.
Onward! Another day, another (few thousand) dollars (out the door.) Feel free to contribute to the war chest! StopJCPL.org/donate
Here's a little love for the diner we've had a rushed lunch at for the past 3 days -- Deluxe Diner on Broad St, right by Washington Park and about a block away from the OAL building. If you're ever in the area and need a good, quick lunch, try this place -- excellent sweet potato fries!