TRENTON — State environmental regulators are set to hold another public hearing on part of their proposed climate change rule after finding they drastically underestimated the costs.
The Department of Environmental Protection is proposing that some industrial and commercial boilers installed from 2025 should run on electricity instead of fossil fuels. They had originally said it could increase operating costs by between 4% and 5% compared to natural gas boilers – but that actually meant it could increase costs by four to five times.
The state caught the error ahead of a first hearing, but has scheduled a second for March 29 specifically on the boiler part of a broader proposal meant to tackle emissions that cause climate change.
From the first hearing, the detractors of the plan took aim. They said the power grid was not ready for this and would increase emissions for the foreseeable future by increasing demand for coal-derived electricity in other states.
“If we’re going to ask New Jersey residents to bear additional costs, the department should at least work hard not to interfere with that process,” said Andrew McNally, director of government relations for South Jersey Industries, who said. that carbon emissions could increase. 50% short term.
Critics said that not only are the electric boilers themselves much more expensive, but the running costs would mean monthly heating bills could triple or quadruple.
“These additional costs will be passed on to the boiler owner’s customers, including apartment building tenants, and in the case of already overstretched schools, property taxpayers,” said Paul Sohler, director of engineering. for Crown Boiler Company.
Ray Cantor, vice president of government affairs for the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, said it’s time to allow energy technology to evolve without hastily tackling climate change through mandates such as electric boilers” which have a much higher cost, a shorter lifespan and yet will lead to more carbon emissions.
The proposal allows exceptions to the rule if installing an electric boiler is not technically feasible – but Eric DeGesero, executive vice president of the Fuel Merchants Association of New Jersey, said that was a vague term .
“Everything is technically feasible,” he said. “The only limit to the feasibility of anything is money.”
Eric Miller, New Jersey Energy Policing Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the boiler rule is the state’s first major electrification effort and is important because buildings are the second largest source of emissions in New Jersey.
“It will be impossible to achieve our climate goals if we don’t address the building sector in a timely manner,” Miller said.
Despite concerns about the potential impact on tenants, Melissa Miles, executive director of the New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance, said the state should go further by requiring the replacement of even smaller fossil fuel boilers and being stingy with any derogation.
“I would much rather if young people didn’t breathe emissions for 12 or 13 years while they’re in elementary school,” Miles said.
Most of the criticism at the DEP hearing went in the opposite direction, with a steady parade of representatives from – it’s that the state’s proposal is insufficient to address a climate emergency and needs to be rewritten to achieve the goals set by law and state policy.
“Anything less would be a catastrophic failure of this administration, a stain on their environmental legacy, and a crime against humanity,” said Matt Smith, New Jersey State Director for Food & Watch Watch.
Sen. Anthony Bucco, R-Morris, called the DEP’s mistake “outrageous” and called for the entire energy master plan to be put on hold until its financial impact is calculated.
“This is yet another example of Governor (Phil) Murphy’s lack of interest in the working middle class of this state,” Bucco said.
Michael Symons is the Statehouse Bureau Chief for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at email@example.com
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