Daily Record Opinion: Murphy’s energy plan will create big tax for NJ residents | Opinion

Jan. 31, 2020 | NorthJersey.com

In the state with the highest property tax bills in the nation and a crisis of affordability that’s driving a mass exodus to more affordable places, it’s outrageous that Gov. Phil Murphy would proactively add to the financial burden of New Jersey residents with a costly new energy tax.

Murphy’s new Energy Master Plan (EMP) has an end game of eliminating consumer choices by rapidly shutting off access to natural gas, and requiring mass electrification even though the technologies don’t exist to meet the round-the-clock, on-demand energy needs of our 9 million residents. It also ignores the fact that 75 percent of homes need natural gas for heating and cooking, and our businesses want it for clean, reliable and affordable power.

It’s no surprise the administration failed to include a cost analysis of its “Green New Deal”-inspired plan, but the Board of Public Utilities President Joe Fiordaliso may have already let the cat out of the bag when he stated back in April that it’s “expensive, and we know it is expensive.”

Last October at a business forum, two Murphy administration policymakers from the NJBPU and NJDEP went beyond that sentiment, telling the audience that the public simply needs to get used to the fact we need to pay more for energy. That’s ridiculous.

A recent report by Consumer Energy Alliance found natural gas saved New Jersey residents over $21.2 billion since 2006, and PSE&G says the average family is paying $880 less per year than they did in 2008 as a result. This has all occurred while carbon emissions are at their lowest level since 1988 based on federal environmental data, proving with clear evidence that economic growth and addressing climate change can be achieved without Murphy’s radically expensive plans.

Rather than capitalizing on those low-cost energy benefits to attract jobs, save residents money and continue building a realistic bridge to a carbon-free future, Murphy’s approach is to radically uproot our energy systems completely to appease narrow environmental interest groups.

The governor’s plan gives little consideration to the crushing costs upon seniors, low income families and the middle class, leaving fewer dollars for retirement, a needed car repair, or college savings for their kids. It risks long-term job creation, and even higher property tax bills as schools and other taxpayer-owned facilities must retrofit with costly, less efficient heating equipment.

Some estimates peg the cost of shutting off natural gas at $35,000 per household – an annual cost of nearly $2,000 for 20 years – as furnaces, water heaters, appliances, electric boxes and more are replaced and upgraded, beyond the major infrastructure costs for new transmission lines and power generation that will be borne by utilities and passed on to customers.

Based on a recent poll, a major trade union found 67 percent of New Jersey voters reject the governor’s plans to block natural gas and the infrastructure we all depend on.

The problem is, the administration is already putting some of these radical policies into place with discreet regulatory and legal moves that delay and deny needed natural gas infrastructure we need now. Based on what our utilities are saying, he’s having a dangerous impact far beyond cost.

Last October, PSE&G and New Jersey Natural Gas both raised alarms with the Board of Public Utilities that administrative delays and denials of natural gas infrastructure are creating “very real public safety risks” because they are unable to secure enough gas to ensure reliability as soon as next winter. 

Pointing to a natural gas disruption in April 2016, the utilities argued that had it occurred in the middle of the winter, millions of New Jersey homes could’ve lost heat for weeks on end. This is an alarming development that the BPU and the Administration must address. Murphy’s attempts to block access to natural gas will exacerbate these pending and urgent reliability concerns.

Cold homes and new energy taxes don’t make for good campaign politics. That’s why the Governor is hoping you only hear a few sound bites and don’t understand the massive tax hike he is proposing to be tucked away in your energy bills.

Now is the time for residents and business leaders to speak up. Contact the Governor and tell him to focus on lowering our property taxes, not on raising our energy bills.

Sen. Anthony M. Bucco, a Republican, represents the 25th Legislative District in the New Jersey Senate.