A recent poll finds that the majority of people in Morris and Sussex counties in New Jersey favors PSE&G's plan to upgrade the Susquehanna-Roseland transmission line to ensure reliability of the electric grid.

The poll, conducted by the firm of Luntz, Maslansky Strategic Research, showed approximately 3-to-1 support for the project, with 60 percent of those surveyed saying they “strongly support” or “somewhat support” it, compared to 22 percent who “strongly oppose” or “somewhat oppose” the line. Support for the line was equally strong regardless of the respondent’s proximity to the line.

“It is evident that most people understand that the existing line, which went into service in 1931, can’t be expected to handle today’s demand for safe, reliable electric service without an upgrade,” said Ralph LaRossa, president and COO of PSE&G.

“If we don’t act, Morris and Sussex counties, as well as all of northern New Jersey, could experience widespread brownouts and blackouts by the summer of 2012,” LaRossa said. “That’s not our judgment at PSE&G. It’s the verdict of the independent experts empowered by the federal government to manage the electrical grid. It’s a warning we take very seriously.”

The poll showed that 81 percent of the people in these counties see America’s energy situation as either a “crisis” or “major problem.” LaRossa added, “Most people who live in this area clearly understand the need to do what is required to maintain and ensure reliability.”

PSE&G, which funded the poll, is seeking permission to invest $750 million on the upgrade, adding a 500-kilovolt line to the existing 230-kilovolt line, within an existing transmission right-of-way. The project would create the equivalent of nearly 4,000 jobs lasting one year each, according to a recent report by senior economists at Rutgers University. And by relieving some of the congestion that drives up electric rates in New Jersey, it would help contain electricity costs for homes and businesses in the region.

The Board of Public Utilities is considering PSE&G’s petition to upgrade the line and is expected to make a decision by the end of the year. Public hearings were held on June 11 and 18 in Sussex County; a third hearing will be held June 30 in Morris County. In addition, the New Jersey Highlands Council is expected to vote on PSE&G’s request for an exemption for the project at its June 25 meeting.

The Luntz, Maslansky survey was conducted by telephone with 525 utility ratepayers across Morris and Sussex counties. The survey captured a statistically significant population of each county. To make sure the survey elicited the opinions of those ratepayers most likely to be affected by the project, the survey included an oversample of 100 respondents self-selected as living near the current transmission line, as well as an oversample of 100 respondents who lived in towns known to be near the existing transmission line. All respondents were registered voters. The survey was in the field June 4-11 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.