WASHINGTON—Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), who represents much of Monmouth County, applauded Friday’s ruling by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities rejecting the proposal of Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L) to construct a high-voltage power line between Red Bank and Aberdeen.
“Today’s decision is a vindication for local residents who fought long and hard to oppose these power lines, especially Rachel Kanapka and her committed group Residents Against Giant Electric (RAGE),” said Smith, who visited many sites along the route of the proposed power lines, met with concerned residents and local officials, and testified on the detrimental effects the power lines would have on the local communities.
“I applaud the Board of Public Utilities for making this decision, and I am pleased to have been able to work hard alongside all the members of RAGE.”
After the giant power lines were proposed as part of the Monmouth County Reliability Project (MCRP), Smith met with residents who would have been directly affected by the proposed power line and personally visited homes, in July of 2016. “When I walked through the neighborhoods of Holmdel and Middletown surveying the proposed power line route, I was convinced that the project would be devastating for the five communities involved at different points along the route, and by extension, the County,” Smith said.
With the poles ranging in height from 135 to 210 feet, the power lines would have run in close proximity to residential neighborhoods and schools from Red Bank to Aberdeen, along a 9.7-mile strip along the NJ Transit rail right-of-way.
On Friday, Smith thanked members of RAGE along with other residents who successfully rallied against the proposed power lines.
“In addition to Rachel Kanapka, I thank Kin Gee, Lisa Walsh, Judy Musa and Terri Vilardi, as well as dozens of state and local elected officials and the hundreds of residents who have reached out to me, for their ceaseless advocacy and untiring passion for this cause,” Smith said.
“For two years, we worked to ensure this just result—to guarantee that neighborhoods from Aberdeen to Red Bank would not be endangered by these monster power lines, and residents sickened by the potential harmful effects of low-voltage radiation emitted by this proposed high-voltage transmission line,” Smith stated.
Smith concluded that the unsightly power lines in clear view of homes would almost certainly hurt the property values of those homes and result in economic loss for many long-time local residents. And a potentially more serious problem lay in the long-term effects of the low-voltage radiation that would be emitted by the high-voltage transmission line, in close proximity to schools and residential backyards where children would be exposed to this radiation.
Smith presented these concerns in his testimony before the New Jersey Transit Corporation Board of Directors on October 13, 2016, to convince the agency to reject JCP&L’s application to site monopoles on the NJT right-of-way. At that October meeting, New Jersey Transit officials promised to personally tour the route of the proposed power lines.
“Some may argue that there is little or no adverse health link to exposure to the electromagnetic fields created by these high-voltage lines, and may produce select studies that suggest that, but there is statistically relevant evidence—including studies—that suggest otherwise,” Smith said in his testimony.
One of these studies was a massive French study that included all 2,779 cases of childhood acute leukemia in France from 2002 to 2007 and 30,000 contemporaneous population controls. The study concluded that living within 50 meters of high voltage power lines increased the odds of occurrence of childhood acute leukemia.
In November 2016, Smith visited more homes, a school, senior center, and church along the MCRP route, with NJ Transit officials and other elected officials. In February of 2017, he submitted a statement to the NJ Senate Economic Growth Committee in opposition to the MCRP. “Out of an abundance of caution for the health, safety and welfare of Monmouth County families, reject JCP&L’s power line project,” Smith stated.
Smith also submitted remarks against the project to the Honorable Gail M. Cookson, NJ Office of Administrative Law, in May of 2017.
In March of 2018, Judge Cookson sided with the residents who opposed the plan. Smith applauded the decision as one “that took seriously and upheld the legitimate concerns of local residents.