Westfield residents fight against PSE&G plan to modernize the electrical grid

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PSE&G’s plan to install taller utility poles to upgrade the electrical grid was met with a lot of opposition from members of the public.

The utility company wishes to upgrade its wires to 69,000 kilovolts between its substations in Union County. But that path goes through Westfield neighborhoods, where residents were surprised to find out expanded rights of way meant the utility could cut down decades-old trees on private property.

Residents say that it will lower their property values.

“This project with PSE&G is going to destroy the character of our neighborhood,” says resident Mary Roth.

The plan was to strip 54 trees in order to make room for taller, wider utility poles.

Westfield attorney James Foerst used social media and word of mouth to get 175 residents to pack a public meeting on Tuesday to express their outrage.

“We just don't want that plan in place. We don't want our neighborhood changed. If all of a sudden, we become the transmission alley for PSE&G, it's never going to be the same here,” Foerst says.

PSE&G says that the project is meant to strengthen the power grid amid more frequent and damaging storms. A spokesperson for the company said in a statement, "No one wants their power to go out and these necessary upgrades to our electric infrastructure will provide greater reliability for Westfield customers.”

But the promise of a more reliable power grid was not enough to sway the residents of Westfield.

PSE&G opted to fight another day and says that it is planning an upcoming community workshop. "Until that time, PSE&G has committed to delay any work related to this project until the workshop is conducted,” a spokesperson said.

“It's just wrong project, wrong place,” says Roth. “Oh, we're fighting it, we're fighting it.”

The work was scheduled to go on mostly in the south side of town near Scotch Plains Avenue and Rahway Avenue. A date for the community workshop has not been set.

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