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Public Hearings Scheduled for Christie's Energy Plan

by Claudia Morell
A A
Governor Christie
Bob Jagendorf/flickr

Christie's Energy Master Plan (EMP) outlines his plan for New Jersey's future energy consumption and production.

New Jersey residents will get a change Tuesday to comment on Governor Chris Christie’s energy plan at the first of three scheduled public hearings. Governor Christie revised former Governor Jon Corzine’s Energy Master Plan last month, and the state legislature is asking New Jersey residents what they think about it.

The first hearing is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, while the others are scheduled for August in Pomona and Trenton.

The plan calls for reducing the cost of energy for New Jersey residents while also stimulating job creation and pushing for greener energy resources.  It leaves the door open for a new nuclear power plant to replace one that will shut down in eight years, as well as expanding natural gas use, increased use of solar energy at the industrial and commercial levels.

“This plan represents my administration’s commitment to changing the way we produce, distribute and use energy as part of a broader emphasis on renewable sources of energy and economic growth,” said Christie when he first introduced the plan last month.

The plan, however, is meeting with criticism from some environmental groups and state senators.

Jeff Tittle with the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club said Governor Christie is going backwards and hurting New Jersey’s green future by relying too much on fossil fuels.

“Instead of subsidizing people to save energy or to do renewable energy, which is good for our economy and lowers pollution, we are going to be subsidizing power lines and gas power plants, which means more fossil fuels and more pollution and that hurts our green economy,” said Tittle.

Tittle is referring to the plan’s expansion of the interstate natural gas pipeline system and the construction and improvement of the Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland Interconnection. Meanwhile, Tittle is pushing for legislation that will prevent Governor Christie from eliminating a $5 surcharge on electric bills that provides funds for rebates for people who buy more expensive energy-efficient appliances, as well as helps poorer families pay their electric bills.

The state legislature does not have to sign off on the energy plan—it goes straight into effect when the President of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities approves it.  President Lee A. Solomon, who was appointed to his position by Governor Christie in February of 2010, already approved of the plan when it was announced in June.

“This plan supports enhances reliability, lower energy costs and environmental protection in New Jersey,” said Solomon in a press release. “It balances the needs to taxpayers with the state’s policy goals of promoting the state’s economic well-being while safeguarding the air, water and land.”

State Senator Bob Smith (D), Chair of the Energy and Environmental Committee in the legislature, said the public hearings will not be in vain as environmental policy is very important to residents.

“If you don’t raise a fuss and show people what’s really going on with their government. They never know what is happening,” said Smith.

Smith said he is concerned the plan will cause chaos for energy markets as the plan changes former Governor Corzine’s renewable portfolio goal from 30% to 22.5% by 2021. He said this sends a message to investors that the state is not as invested in renewable energy resources, which is a problem for him, as New Jersey is currently the second largest producer of solar energy in the country.

A spokesman for the Board of Public Utilities said he does not understand why environmentalists are against the plan as it does not go against the state’s initiative to be “greener” and energy efficient.  He said he expects the hearings will bring “a good cross section of people across the board”.
 

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