For more than a century, New Jersey’s nation-leading infrastructure provided the foundation for a state that achieved great leaps forward in commerce, industry and transportation.
Infrastructure, however much we wish it would, does not last forever. Roads crack under constant use. Pipes and wires show wear and tear.
Now, for much of New Jersey’s aging infrastructure, it’s time to upgrade.
As longtime business partners with PSE&G, New Jersey’s labor unions know that these kinds of upgrades provide a variety of benefits that include putting thousands of people to work and creating new opportunities for New Jersey businesses, in addition to more reliable utility service.
For the past decade, PSE&G has made the modernization of New Jersey’s energy infrastructure a priority. The state’s largest utility has spent billions of dollars to increase reliability of the electric grid by adding and upgrading transmission lines, and to increase the grid’s resiliency against extreme weather by raising substations and reinforcing its delivery network.
More recently, PSE&G has embarked on an ambitious effort to strengthen its far-reaching natural gas system by replacing old, leaky underground pipes. The first phase of PSE&G’s Gas System Modernization Program was approved in 2015 and called for the utility to replace 510 miles of gas main over three years.
Since then, utility crews have replaced 307 miles of cast-iron and unprotected steel pipes with new, modern plastic. PSE&G has nearly 4,000 miles of cast-iron gas pipes in its system – more than any other U.S. utility. At the current pace, it would take 30 years to replace it all.
Now, PSE&G has asked state regulators to approve a five-year extension of the program, replacing another 1,250 miles – an investment of $2.7 billion in New Jersey’s energy infrastructure.
The economic benefits of this work are clear: $540 million in economic activity and 3,000 jobs created for every year of the program. But large-scale infrastructure projects like this one pay off in many different ways.
By replacing aging gas mains, PSE&G is making its system safer and more reliable. Digging up leaky pipes and replacing them with brand-new plastic reduces methane emissions, which is good for public health and our climate. The proposed five-year extension would reduce greenhouse gas emissions equal to taking 43,000 cars off the road.
A healthy public infrastructure vital to economic competitiveness – and the construction and maintenance of that infrastructure require a skilled, experienced workforce.
PSE&G gas construction jobs are good-paying, middle class union jobs with benefits. For those looking for an alternative to college, PSE&G hires and trains workers right out of high school, offering salaries that start around $40,000.
Programs like PSE&G’s Gas System Modernization Program benefit all of New Jersey, today and long into the future.
As we mark Labor Day 2017, my organization, New Jersey State Pipetrades, is proud to work alongside PSE&G, the BPU and thousands of our union brothers and sisters in partner organizations on this important infrastructure work.
Michael Maloney is Business Manager of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 9 and President of New Jersey State Pipetrades, which encompasses eight local unions and more than 11,000 members of Plumbers, Pipefitters, Steamfitters, Sprinkler Fitters and HVAC technicians.