Last year JCP&L held "open house" sessions for a route through Parsippany. The townsfolk jumped all over opposing the line, forming a grassroots opposition group and making a lot of noise. Last week, JCP&L held another series of open houses announcing they had selected a different route through neighboring Montville.
Montville has already been ground zero for PSE&G's "Susquehanna Roseland" transmission project. I guess the geniuses at JCP&L think transmission lines are like potato chips -- you can never have just one? So, not only is Montville already an experienced transmission opposition warrior, but JCP&L had to go and enrage the town's leadership with its tired, old "open house" meeting format, which the mayor referred to as "the stations of the cross."
The Committee expected the mayor to give an opening statement and then JCP&L would give their presentation, followed by a question-and-answer period. A committee member said that it turned out to be a JCP&L public relations presentation, and the company made no effort to discuss the problems and possible solutions.
Will the utilities ever learn? Their old routines no longer work on an increasingly educated and savvy public. The "open house" is no longer effective in dividing and neutralizing potential opposition. Heck, we use your stupid "open houses" as handy-dandy meet-n-greets to recruit new opposition. It's cheaper and easier when you all do the mailings and media to get affected landowners to a centralized location where they can be recruited by opposition groups.
The only citizens who leave those meetings with a warm, fuzzy feeling are those who find out that their property is nowhere near the project. The rest of them leave confused, shell-shocked... and angry. And they form and join opposition groups that increase costs and delay projects, sometimes even causing the project to be abandoned.
The days of running over the public with stupid PR tricks in order to build overhead transmission are over. The public demands transparency, integrity and better solutions.
Time for a new schtick, FirstEnergy.