SOUTH BRUNSWICK — Gov. Phil Murphy has signed a controversial nuclear power subsidy bill along with other legislation that promotes the development of wind and solar power.

During a ceremony at a solar farm in Monmouth Junction, Murphy signed legislation that will increase the cost of electricity by more than $300 million a year in the Garden State, costing the average customer about $40 more annually.

The bill was crafted to keep Jersey’s three nuclear power plants operating after warnings were issued by Public Service Enterprise Group that the facilities could be forced to shut down in a few years because of stiffer competition from dropping natural gas prices.

Murphy said having nuclear power plants in New Jersey is an important priority.

“To reach our clean energy goals, we will need to keep these plants open and safely operational, they not only produce 40 percent of our power, but over 90 percent as of today, of our clean energy.”

Murphy also said nuclear power plants are needed to grow and strengthen New Jersey’s economy.

Gov. Murphy. David Matthau, Townsquare Media NJ
Gov. Murphy. David Matthau, Townsquare Media NJ

“These facilities support 58 hundred jobs, not to mention the ancillary impact those jobs have, those are good paying, union jobs that support a middle class family.”

Some environmental groups, including ReThinkEnergy NJ, New Jersey Conservation Foundation and the Environmental Defense Fund praised Murphy for taking steps to promote “a thriving clean energy economy.” But Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel turned thumbs down on the governor’s plan.

“Gov. Murphy will shamefully sell out ratepayers and clean energy in giving PSEG the biggest corporate subsidy in state history: $300 million a year. This bill package will mean New Jersey stays hooked on nuclear power at the expense of renewables like solar and wind," Tittel said. "The so-called green bill was created as cover for this nuclear giveaway.”

A statement issued by the watchdog group Food & Water Watch labels the legislation as a massive PSE&G giveaway that is “a disaster for New Jersey.”

Also critical of the legislation was the New Jersey Business and Industry Association.

NJBIA president Michele Siekerka said the measures continue “the concerning trend of adding to the already high cost of doing business in New Jersey, while creating new ratepayer obligations, without prior consideration of comprehensive planning to address the needs of our state.”

Murphy also signed a measure designed to expand solar and offshore wind energy through tax credits and other structural changes.

The legislation requires 21 percent of the energy sold in the state be derived from solar, wind or other renewable or sustainable technologies by the year 2020, 35 percent by the year 2025 and 50 percent by 2050.

An executive order signed by Murphy directs new development of the state’s Energy Master Plan in order to achieve 100 percent clean energy by the year 2050.

“One of our goals, one of my goals as governor is to make New Jersey a leader not just nationally, but globally, in the generation of clean and renewable energy,” he said.

“As a state already seeing the warning signs of climate change, this is a matter of vital importance to our future. We know that clean energy technologies provide a tremendous opportunity to create good paying, union jobs.”

The measure also directs continuing research to expand renewable energy storage capability, so energy from the sun and wind will be available even on a cloudy day.

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