This article originally appeared as a guest column in NJ Spotlight, written by Greg Lalevee.
If New Jersey doesn’t expand natural gas supply, the cost of energy will soar and those who can least afford it will be hit the hardest
Last month, Con Edison officially imposed a gas moratorium in southern Westchester County, New York and will stop accepting applications from new clients on March 15. This decision by ConEd is a direct result of the state’s lack of natural gas supply and the increased demands for natural gas during the cold winter months that could have been avoided by regional planning and policy foresight.
If we don’t invest in expanding natural-gas energy to promote a stable, affordable mix of energy sources, New Jersey could face the same supply crisis New York is currently dealing with. We must learn from this example and do better. If not, the cost of energy will soar and residents, from urban to suburban, will pay the price — leaving those with less means hit the hardest. We need affordable and available energy now to continue operating our daily lives as we research and develop the next-generation solution.
Con Edison and National Grid previously expressed concerns and gave warnings about New York’s natural gas supply and acknowledged significant demand increase prior to the recent moratorium announcement. Despite all these warning signs, several natural-gas pipeline projects — including the Northeast Supply Enhancement project and the Constitution pipeline — remain on hold in the Empire State. A recent federal court decision on the Northern Access Pipeline in New York State found that the state — like New Jersey — has fought hard to deny pipelines for political reasons even when these energy upgrades pass scrutiny from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and other regulators.
Unfortunately, the Murphy administration has shown a similar reluctance to embrace a smart, low-cost energy mix. The administration has frivolously fought tooth and nail against the PennEast pipeline, opposed minor expansions and capacity increases for other natural gas pipelines, opposed transmission lines that would provide increased reliability, and even shot down a windfarm project off the coast of Atlantic City. All of these will add up to residents being forced to pay significantly more to heat and power their homes, possibly leaving those less fortunate to make tough choices.
Current policies taking us in wrong direction
The stronger and fairer New Jersey we are hoping to leave for the next generation should not be one where residents must choose between energy or food on the table — and our current policies are taking us in the wrong direction.
Every state needs an affordable and clean energy mix to encourage development, keep energy costs low and create economic growth. New Jersey especially needs this during cold winter months. As nuclear power plants continue to come offline, natural gas pipeline projects are more important than ever.
Despite the general public’s misperception of these projects being dangerous, this is far from the truth. In fact, natural gas pipelines are safe, effective and clean. They are a more secure means of transporting natural gas than by barge or rail and directly create thousands of high-wage, quality jobs. Businesses and industrial sites, which power our state’s economic growth, need power themselves and we risk a shortage without more energy sources coming online.
Without these capacity-expanding projects, residential, industrial and commercial heating costs will skyrocket. New Jerseyans will continue to leave the state at a staggering rate. Furthermore, businesses will be far less likely to choose New Jersey as a place for their headquarters.
That’s why it’s so encouraging to see the federal court’s recent decision to deny the state’s request to reverse the PennEast approval.
The PennEast project has passed strict environmental reviews and offers nothing but benefits to New Jersey: PennEast will lower the state’s emissions and, had it been active last winter, would have saved the region over $435 million in electrical bills alone. In fact, the Garden State needs more projects like PennEast, ones that help round out an efficient energy future that includes clean sources of energy, job creation and economic growth.
Let’s re-examine New Jersey’s energy policy: It’s time for our elected officials to wake up and see the warning signs. Our state and our residents need affordable, clean, stable energy, and legislators must work hard to make that a reality.
This article originally appeared as a guest column in The Star-Ledger, written by Jim Kirkos. Jim Kirkos is president and CEO for the Meadowlands Regional Chamber and the Meadowlands Liberty Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Gateway investment worth it for Newark and Amazon
Amazon’s proposed second North American headquarters could elevate Newark to a rightful place as an important peer to Philadelphia, New York and Boston. But in addition to a great workforce, a dynamic region and a comprehensive incentive plan, one of the big draws for Amazon is Newark’s proximity to New York City.
Newark – the only place with world-class infrastructure that offers a huge savings over other Northeast Corridor cities – offers Amazon accessibility to exceptional cultural assets and even the opportunity to further stimulate them.
I would argue that Newark is a no-brainer for Amazon, but I fear for one thing: Funding for the Gateway tunnel project has become a political football between the red Trump administration and a pair of blue states.
The lack of a clear funding pathway may create a gray area in Newark’s bid to win Amazon’s “HQ2.” If we are willing to put $5 billion into attracting Amazon alone, how much is Gateway worth to the region?
It’s something to think about as we define priorities going forward.
Gateway’s limbo hurts not only Newark; it hurts the New Jersey suburbs that need a boost in demand for housing. It hurts the Meadowlands warehouse districts and small businesses that are starved for a new economic driver. It hurts NJ Transit, it hurts Amtrak, it hurts the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey – all of which contribute bones to the greatest infrastructure skeleton in the world, bones so brittle that a complete failure is a real threat not only to New Jersey’s economy but also to national security.
As a state, we are not blameless in the condition of our infrastructure. We were kicking the can down the road long before Hurricane Sandy, deferring maintenance and ignoring warning signs.
But we have committed the necessary resources for our share of the Gateway plan and we need the federal government to now commit to its share. Our region contributes benefits to the national economy that dwarf the needed federal investment in Gateway.
If threats to public health and national security are not enough to overcome the Trump administration’s seeming intent to undermine our region, with a project such as Amazon in the balance, there is all the more urgency for our lawmakers here and in Washington to prioritize Gateway or deal with much bigger problems later.
STATEMENT FROM OPERATING ENGINEERS LOCAL 825 ON THE PASSING OF SENATOR JIM WHELAN
“The labor community has lost a true champion and ally this evening, and I have lost a friend. Jim fought beside our hardworking men and women every day – his leadership on the issues will not be forgotten and his legacy of progress in Atlantic City and throughout New Jersey will live on. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this dark time.” – Greg Lalevee, Business Manager of International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 825.
Today, Greg Lalevee, Chairman of the Engineers Labor-Employer Cooperative and Business Manager of IUOE Local 825, issued the following statement after Governor Cuomo’s Press Conference Discussing the New Moynihan Station:
“I’m pleased to see the much-needed progress New York has made in overhauling and upgrading a portion of the Penn Station complex. Coupled with essential repairs to Penn Station’s existing infrastructure, the new Moynihan Train Hall will help improve operations at the station, expand capacity, create good-paying jobs and generate economic activity for New Yorkers. This long-awaited train hall – two decades in the making – honors the legacy of Senator Moynihan, who first conceived of the idea and never got to see it come to fruition.
Let this be a first step in the essential overhaul of our region’s infrastructure systems, starting with our critical rail infrastructure. For too long, underinvestment and poor planning have wreaked havoc on the New York metro area’s rail systems, which carry millions of commuters and are vitally important for commerce, quality of life and travel in our region.
I urge Governor Cuomo and our elected officials to continue this investment by working to secure long-term, dedicated funding to repair, replace and improve Penn Station and other elements of our failing rail network. I’m heartened by today’s progress and I hope it represents a turning point in our commitment to our infrastructure systems; it’s about time New Yorkers had a 21st-century rail system they can be proud of.”
In a recent Op-Ed in the Times Union, Heather Briccetti – President and CEO of the Business Council of New York State Inc. – detailed two pressing issues facing New York State: the need for quality, well-paying jobs and access to affordable and reliable energy. New Yorkers for Affordable Energy, a coalition of labor, business and community leaders, is off to an impressive start on both of these issues. Road to Repair is excited to join the coalition’s efforts in their fight to expand natural gas access and to use it as a driver for bringing new businesses and jobs to the Empire State.
As demand for natural gas across the state continues to increase, it is imperative for businesses to shift towards clean, affordable natural gas. This is an anticipated move for a majority of our country as the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates the demand for natural gas will increase 40 percent nationally over the next 10 years, double the growth from the past 10 years.
However, despite this anticipated increased demand, New York continues to back away from investing in natural gas infrastructure projects. If special interests continue to stall much-needed energy infrastructure projects, over the next four years the state will lose 17,400 jobs and $1.6 billion, according to a recent report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce detailing the current state of New York’s economy.
Increased energy infrastructure investment by the state is a solution that can solve two problems at once: create more jobs that help boost economic activity throughout the region while increasing the state’s depleted energy reserves.
Road to Repair is dedicated to building a better tristate region through infrastructure investments, and that’s why we proudly and fully support New Yorkers for Affordable Energy’s efforts to increase the state’s access to natural gas.
This article originally appeared on POLITICO, written by Marie J. French and David Giambusso
ALBANY — A New Jersey advocacy group that backed a successful increase of the state’s gas tax is planning an expansion into parts of New York to push for all types of infrastructure spending from transportation to water to energy.
The Road to Repair campaign, backed by the Engineers Labor-Employer Cooperative 825, wants to increase public awareness around the need for infrastructure investment, said Greg Lalevee, chairman of the group. The group will focus on Westchester County and the Hudson Valley, where the labor-management group already has members.
“We’re advocating for all kinds of infrastructure — roads, bridges, highways, power development, water infrastructure, gas infrastructure, power generation — pretty much everything,” Lalevee said. “A lot of this is to build public awareness; I don’t think the education is really done.”
Statement from Greg Lalevee, Chairman of the Engineers Labor-Employer Cooperative
“This is a smart move for New Jersey and a critical upgrade to our aging natural gas infrastructure that will create jobs, improve natural gas service and protect New Jersey’s residents from dangerous gas leaks. The proposed program will create thousands of well-paying, full-time jobs across 11 counties in New Jersey, adding a crucial economic benefit to the important advances in safety and delivery PSE&G has proposed. Infrastructure investments such as these are important job creators, and other utilities should follow PSE&G’s lead to build a brighter economic future for our state.
I urge our utilities to upgrade their infrastructure and work with state, county and local officials to prioritize these sorely-needed projects. Modernizing New Jersey’s crumbling infrastructure must be a top priority for elected officials, service providers and elected officials alike. I’m confident that we can work to secure dedicated funding and a long-term commitment to New Jersey’s energy systems that will ensure a safe, sustainable and economically beneficial future for all New Jerseyans.”
Statement from Mark Longo, Director of the Engineers Labor-Employer Cooperative
“As the labor management fund that supports the over 6500 members of the Operating Engineers Local 825, we stand firmly behind the announced project from PSE&G to upgrade significant portions of their natural gas infrastructure. This $2.7 Billion investment represents a commitment to delivering the most affordable energy to their customers. An investment of this magnitude – in real dollars, future economic benefits and dedication to safety – is to be applauded.”
Researchers at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy analyzed the economic impact of the proposed Northeast Supply Enhancement project and the results are clear: Investing in the region’s energy infrastructure creates jobs and boosts the economy.
Our region’s appetite for natural gas is growing and the Northeast Supply Enhancement project would meet the increasing demand by expanding the existing Transco pipeline system. According to the Rutgers University study, this project would pump $239.9 million in economic activity into New Jersey alone. In addition to generating $16.4 million in local and state taxes, the project would create 2,411 good-paying jobs for New Jerseyans during construction. Once the pipeline is operational, more than $11 million in additional annual local property taxes will be paid to local municipal and county governments.
Investing in infrastructure is smart policy, plain and simple.
The recent NJ Transit & Amtrak train derailments are just a sign of what’s to come if we continue to ignore our transportation infrastructure. Greg Lalevee, Chairman of ELEC discusses the importance of investing in New Jersey’s infrastructure.
Almost five full years after Hurricane Sandy, we’re still working to get our infrastructure systems—that were flooded and over-burdened during one of the worst storms in recent memory—back up and running. Last week, the federal government announced it will spend almost $240 million to help repair damage to the Holland Tunnel caused by the storm.
The funding will allow the Port Authority to move forward with repairs caused by flooding and saltwater damage to the tunnel, which sees around 300,000 trips daily.
Hurricane Sandy revealed a myriad of weaknesses in our infrastructure systems we could have never anticipated. From widespread power outages to cell phone tower failures, and flooding that shut down major roadways and public transit systems, Hurricane Sandy exploited all of the weaknesses in our major infrastructure systems.
While we have made repairs and upgrades over the past several years, there is still much more yet to do. Our successful efforts to replenish the Transportation Trust Fund last year are a step in the right direction. However, if we don’t do more to take a long-view and create funding sources that invest in infrastructure systems for generations to come rather than a few years ahead, it’s only a matter of time before the next severe storm cripples the region once again and undercuts our economic growth for years to come.