Murphy reps seek to ease NJ business fears on clean energy costs
TRENTON – High-ranking Murphy administration officials sought to ease concerns among businesses about the increased cost for energy as New Jersey shifts to renewable sources at a New Jersey Business and Industry Association conference Friday.
The energy summit – officially called ‘Energy & Decarbonization: A New Jersey Business Perspective’ – was a daylong dive into the clean energy debate, questioning whether the state's goals for 100% clean energy and an 80% reduction of greenhouse gases by 2050 are feasible or desirable.
Business groups are concerned the changes sought by the state’s Energy Master Plan will prove prohibitively expensive – especially hitting industries that are the largest energy consumers. Cabinet officials sought to assure participants they’re taking their worries into account.
Board of Public Utilities President Joseph Fiordaliso said the administration wants to work with businesses and isn’t their adversary.
“Does it cost a lot of money? Yes. I keep saying that. I’m not going to deny it,” Fiordaliso said. “We have a study going on right now that will determine the exact amount of money it will cost – and who’s going to pay for it.”
Fiordaliso said the transition will also bring money into the economy, such as the effort to support a wind turbine industry in South Jersey.
“I’m not here to tell you it’s not expensive,” he said. “But what we fail to look at consistently is the economic development and enhancements that are created by clean energy. Clean energy is good business.”
Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn LaTourette said private industry can’t make the switch without a regulatory push – but that it’ll take time.
“Nobody is flipping off the switch on natural gas tomorrow,” LaTourette said. “I’m sorry to all my environmentalist friends. That is not a thing, period.”
LaTourette said incrementalism is thoughtful, not an insult, and that the state can’t be “blind to reality” by having policies such a blanket ban on compressor stations for natural gas pipelines.
“You don’t see the Department of Environmental Protection answering the call for a fossil fuel moratorium for example because that would have detrimental effects to everyone,” he said.
While Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli says the state may be doing too much too quickly about climate change, LaTourette also hears the opposite – that more is needed.
“And I don’t deny that it’s urgent. By any stretch of the imagination, it is in fact code red for humanity,” LaTourette said. “But I firmly believe that we do not have to punish ourselves and punish our economy on the way to answering that call.”
Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.