Given the current condition of New Jersey’s infrastructure, I am appreciative of plans that seek to upgrade or expand our energy delivery systems. Getting ahead of potential problems is the correct course of action. We can plan for the future or prepare for the bad case scenarios that come with aging gas and electric lines. I don’t know anybody who wants the latter.
PSE&G knows the value of smart investment, so much so that it is willing to put $10 billion of its resources into creating a modern, reliable, and resilient energy system. The public utility understands what those of us in the construction industry already know: that a “patch-and-repair” policy is no way to serve the 2.4 million residents and businesses who rely on them for gas and electric. The fact that PSE&G is willing to upgrade its systems BEFORE problems get worse is the key. It might be easier to garner regulatory support for upgrades after a major power outage, but it is more responsible to do so before the problems get worse.
This policy issue is not far removed from the lives of everyday New Jerseyans. Reliability and resiliency of the utility’s transmission and distribution systems will ensure the lights stay on, keep our homes warm in the winter and cool in the summer, keep businesses up and running, and charge the electronic devices we use in our daily lives. Dependable electricity and gas make New Jersey a good place to live and do business.
In addition to strengthening the state’s energy infrastructure, PSE&G’s work thus far has created tens of thousands of jobs. I’ve seen firsthand how these improvements have put New Jersey residents to work. Indeed, the company’s electric transmission upgrades alone are creating an average of 6,000 jobs a year, for 10 years, according to a study by Rutgers University’s Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy. By comparison, New Jersey netted only 29,000 jobs in 2014. Just one part of PSE&G’s infrastructure plan is creating more than 20 percent of New Jersey’s jobs—not a bad ancillary benefit!
Beyond the transmission work I mentioned, PSE&G’s Energy Strong program is creating 2,000 additional jobs while protecting 29 electric facilities that were impacted by Irene or Sandy. The program will also replace and modernize 250 miles of gas pipes in flood-prone areas. Installing modern high-pressure lines to replace older, low-pressure lines greatly improves reliability and protects the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This is a lot of information to digest but it basically means that PSE&G is working to make sure your gas and electric service is working for you when you need it.
Now is the time to invest. We all remember the agonizing days without electricity and gas that followed Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy. Our state’s infrastructure has been neglected for far too long. Without critical upgrades, we will see further decay throughout the state. To their credit, PSE&G’s investments have been a notable exception to a culture of corporate indifference or indecisiveness. They are acting boldly at a time when bold measures are needed.
As it looks to the future, PSE&G has now proposed investing another $1.6 billion over the next five years to replace an additional 800 miles of cast iron and unprotected steel gas lines, some of the lines more than a hundred years old.
For its job creation alone–another 500 jobs–the New Jersey Building Trades Council would and does support PSE&G’s modernization plan, but our support goes beyond the jobs. As the skilled workers who actually work on these gas lines, we know firsthand that the need to replace decaying pipe is urgent.
As vice president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), I represent more than 25,000 skilled construction craft laborers in New Jersey. When they all began their career with LIUNA they were told about the ebbs and flow of construction work and were urged to plan for the bad times. Looks like PSE&G thinks the same way, and that is a good thing. We need to get ahead of the issue of our state’s aging energy infrastructure—either that or prepare for the unwelcomed consequences.
Raymond M. Pocino is vice president and eastern regional manager of the Laborers’ International Union of North America representing more than 40,000 members in New York City, Long Island, New Jersey, Delaware, and Puerto Rico.
- For more information on PSEG’s job creation in New Jersey, click here.
- For more information on PSE&G’s Gas System Modernization Program, click here.
Raymond M. Pocino
Vice President & Eastern Regional Manager of the Laborers’ International Union of North America