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BPU urged to respond to call for rapid transition to clean energy


FAR HILLS - Conservation and citizens groups are urging the NJ Board of Public Utilities to hasten the state's adoption of clean energy alternatives and achieve greater energy efficiency as it prepares to update the state's Energy Master Plan.

In its support for a faster transition to clean energy, the groups cited the need to preserve open space and farmland and protect air and water quality as well as the declining cost and greater availability of clean energy technologies.

"The future belongs to clean energy," said Michele Byers, executive director, New Jersey Conservation Foundation. "We've already crossed the natural gas bridge. Now it's time to take the road to renewables."

The groups questioned the need for more pipelines in the state, pointing to an analysis by gas and oil trend expert Arthur Berman of Labyrinth Consulting Services. The analysis demonstrates that if just one proposed pipeline, PennEast, were to be constructed, it would result in a 53% surplus of natural gas beyond current demand.

"Pipelines are currently considered in isolation with no single state or federal entity looking at the bigger picture to determine if all this gas is needed, and whether better alternatives exist. It's like letting corporations build toll roads wherever they want without a transportation plan," said Tom Gilbert, campaign director - Energy, Climate and Natural Resources at NJCF.

Barb Blumenthal, a consultant to NJCF, said, "The transition to clean energy is well within our reach according to considerable recent research.

According to Blumenthal, the research summaries she submitted at BPU's EMP public hearings that began this week tell a compelling story about our energy future.

Blumenthal told the board that the research shows that natural gas is less attractive than it was in 2011 when the EMP was last updated. Reliance on natural gas is no longer a cost-effective strategy for reducing emissions in New Jersey

"There are ample alternative energy sources, but we have no alternatives to our fragile water supply," said Jim Waltman, executive director of the Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Association. "We need a forward thinking state energy policy that recognizes that our natural resources are finite and treats them as essential."

Waltman noted that the proposed PennEast pipeline would degrade some of the cleanest water bodies in the state, which have been designated by the Department of Environmental Protection as Category 1 to recognize and protect these outstanding resources. He also urged a rapid transition away from carbon fuels as a critical strategy to protect the state's water supply. "There is strong consensus that climate change will have an enormous, damaging impact on water unless we take bold action."

Carleton Montgomery of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance urged the BPU to reject proposals before the board for new pipeline infrastructure that violate the Pinelands protection laws, but instead commit to fast-track a plan that places greater emphasis on clean energy sources. "Today's pipeline expansion proposals represent a major threat to the integrity of New Jersey's landmark conservation protections in the Pinelands, Highlands and other parts of the state."

Patty Cronheim, representing Hopewell Township Citizens Against the PennEast Pipeline, said, "Citizens throughout the state are asking our officials to stand up and support the move away from antiquated oil and gas and toward clean energy that ensures our health, well being and the economic future of our state."

"Renewable energy is not a future pipe dream. It's how New Jerseyans want to live and can live now," said Cronheim. "In New Jersey, the home of Edison and Einstein, let's work together to lead the innovation and development of renewables."

Cronheim noted that all of the towns along the proposed PennEast pipeline route have stated their opposition and some have issued orders barring PennEast from their lands.

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