State Sen. Anthony M. Bucco (R-25) is urging a halt to Gov. Phil Murphy’s Energy Master Plan after state environmental officials disclosed an error that caused a large underestimate of costs associated with requiring electric boilers for many business and government buildings.
Mandating electric boilers inside many commercial, retail, industrial and governmental buildings by 2025—one component of Murphy’s broader energy plan—would cost 4.2 to 4.9 times the current operational costs for natural gas boilers, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) said in a Feb. 7 notice. The notice corrected the department’s earlier estimate in a December 2021 rule that the mandate would cost 4.2% to 4.9% more.
“After spending two years hiding the massive cost implications of Murphy’s energy tax on families and businesses, this may be the very first acknowledgment that the Administration’s ridiculous mandates will, at minimum, quadruple energy bills for customers. Due to this outrageous admission, Murphy’s Energy Master Plan should not move forward until we have a full accounting of the total cost involved,” Bucco said in a statement.
The North Jersey lawmaker characterized DEP’s initial, much lower cost estimate as a “massive error.” He said the boiler mandate is a small part of “a much larger and financially disastrous grand scheme” by the Murphy administration to completely shift New Jersey from natural gas heat and appliances to all electric systems powered by renewable energy, which he said currently accounts for just 8% of the state’s electricity.
“Many New Jerseyans, including countless small businesses, are struggling to make ends meet because of the Governor’s irrational pandemic policies. Now, he plans to hit them with a 4-5 times increase in their heating bill,” Bucco said. “This is yet another example of Governor Murphy’s lack of concern for the hardworking middle class of this state.”
Objection During Hearing
The DEP held a Feb. 1 hearing on the proposed rule that includes language mandating electric boilers inside many commercial, retail, industrial and governmental buildings by 2025 as part of a broader plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
New Jersey Business and Industry Association (NJBIA) Vice President of Government Affairs Ray Cantor spoke against the plan at the hearing, stating “Largely, these rules will do little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or protect citizens but will be costly and highly disruptive of our energy systems and our economy.”
In a subsequent Feb. 4 post on the business group’s website, Cantor pointed to the DEP’s cost correction on mandating electric boilers as evidence of problems with the overall proposal.
“The Murphy administration continues to be evasive on some of the costs related to its goal of establishing 100% clean energy by 2050, if not inaccurate,” Cantor wrote.
Enviro Group Points to Bigger Picture
Ed Potosnak, executive director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters, pointed to a bigger picture in a Feb. 9 letter to the editor NJ.com. Potosnak said advertisements and comments from fossil-fuel-industry funded groups aim to “spark fear” that the Energy Master Plan will cause skyrocketing electric bills. Potosnak said the groups are motivated by “delaying the transition” to clean energy in an effort to “continue to profit from selling dirty fossil fuels for as long as possible.”
“Their unsupported claims don’t scare me. What does scare me is the thought of the number of people in New Jersey who may lose their homes, businesses and lives to hurricanes, tornadoes and floods, and the health problems future generations may face as we continue to pollute the air,” he said.
March Hearing Planned
Still, Bucco maintained that Murphy’s entire energy plan is “a fairytale that will drive more businesses and jobs away from New Jersey, while quadrupling the energy bills for customers.”
The issue will get aired out again in March.
The state’s DEP said in its Feb. 7 correction notice that it will hold an additional public hearing on March 29 “for the sole purpose of receiving comments” on the cost estimate correction.