Op-Ed: Strong Supply Of Natural Gas And Low Prices Are Essential In NJ

This originally appeared on www.njspotlight.com

If New Jersey doesn’t expand natural gas supply, the cost of energy will soar and those who can least afford it will be hit the hardest

Last month, Con Edison officially imposed a gas moratorium in southern Westchester County, New York and will stop accepting applications from new clients on March 15. This decision by ConEd is a direct result of the state’s lack of natural gas supply and the increased demands for natural gas during the cold winter months that could have been avoided by regional planning and policy foresight.

If we don’t invest in expanding natural-gas energy to promote a stable, affordable mix of energy sources, New Jersey could face the same supply crisis New York is currently dealing with. We must learn from this example and do better. If not, the cost of energy will soar and residents, from urban to suburban, will pay the price — leaving those with less means hit the hardest. We need affordable and available energy now to continue operating our daily lives as we research and develop the next-generation solution.

Con Edison and National Grid previously expressed concerns and gave warnings about New York’s natural gas supply and acknowledged significant demand increase prior to the recent moratorium announcement. Despite all these warning signs, several natural-gas pipeline projects — including the Northeast Supply Enhancement project and the Constitution pipeline — remain on hold in the Empire State. A recent federal court decision on the Northern Access Pipeline in New York State found that the state — like New Jersey — has fought hard to deny pipelines for political reasons even when these energy upgrades pass scrutiny from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and other regulators.

Unfortunately, the Murphy administration has shown a similar reluctance to embrace a smart, low-cost energy mix. The administration has frivolously fought tooth and nail against the PennEast pipeline, opposed minor expansions and capacity increases for other natural gas pipelines, opposed transmission lines that would provide increased reliability, and even shot down a windfarm project off the coast of Atlantic City. All of these will add up to residents being forced to pay significantly more to heat and power their homes, possibly leaving those less fortunate to make tough choices.

Current policies taking us in wrong direction

The stronger and fairer New Jersey we are hoping to leave for the next generation should not be one where residents must choose between energy or food on the table — and our current policies are taking us in the wrong direction.

Every state needs an affordable and clean energy mix to encourage development, keep energy costs low and create economic growth. New Jersey especially needs this during cold winter months. As nuclear power plants continue to come offline, natural gas pipeline projects are more important than ever.

Despite the general public’s misperception of these projects being dangerous, this is far from the truth. In fact, natural gas pipelines are safe, effective and clean. They are a more secure means of transporting natural gas than by barge or rail and directly create thousands of high-wage, quality jobs. Businesses and industrial sites, which power our state’s economic growth, need power themselves and we risk a shortage without more energy sources coming online.

Without these capacity-expanding projects, residential, industrial and commercial heating costs will skyrocket. New Jerseyans will continue to leave the state at a staggering rate. Furthermore, businesses will be far less likely to choose New Jersey as a place for their headquarters.

That’s why it’s so encouraging to see the federal court’s recent decision to deny the state’s request to reverse the PennEast approval.

The PennEast project has passed strict environmental reviews and offers nothing but benefits to New Jersey: PennEast will lower the state’s emissions and, had it been active last winter, would have saved the region over $435 million in electrical bills alone. In fact, the Garden State needs more projects like PennEast, ones that help round out an efficient energy future that includes clean sources of energy, job creation and economic growth.

Let’s re-examine New Jersey’s energy policy: It’s time for our elected officials to wake up and see the warning signs. Our state and our residents need affordable, clean, stable energy, and legislators must work hard to make that a reality.

Greg Lalevee is business manager of the Interna

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