by Tom Johnson / NJ Spotlight
The state should reject out-of-hand a nearly $4 billion proposal by Public Service Electric & Gas to harden its electric and gas infrastructure, according to a coalition of consumer groups, manufacturers, and environmentalists.
It has put the agency in a tough predicament: It is under pressure from the governor’s office to take aggressive steps to avert the widespread outages like those that occurred during Hurricane Sandy just a year ago, which left 7 million people in the dark. At the same time, the utility’s proposal also has won backing from more than 70 municipalities, seven counties, and many major business groups. They view the proposal as a way to harden the grid and avoid the huge economic losses caused by the virtual shutdown of much of the state for weeks or more.
But the proposal, if approved, could increase residential customers delivery costs for electricity by nearly 20 percent, and by 14 percent for gas, according to a consultant retained by one of the interveners. The BPU’s own projections are much lower. It says bills would rise by only 5.4 percent, but that is still a concern in a state long saddled with some of the highest energy costs in the nation.
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