BPU officials to address proposal that could dramatically impact use of natural gas — but can they?

Bucco, Testa, DeGesero not only question policy, but how Murphy administration is attempting to implement it

Top Republican officials and key industry leaders said the state is moving closer to phasing out natural gas in favor of electricity in the building sector.

In other words, they are coming after your gas stove, the groups warned.

On Wednesday, the state’s Board of Public Utilities is expected to vote on a proposal that seemingly directs electric utilities to begin to decarbonize the building sector.

The proposal was introduced June 7. And, while it had a 20-day public comment period that ended June 27, Senate Republican Leader Anthony Bucco (R-Denville) said the issue should be handled in the Legislature.

Bucco said Gov. Phil Murphy is trying to circumvent the Legislature by working through the BPU.

“Gov. Murphy is quietly moving forward with an expensive plan to phase out natural gas and fully electrify homes and businesses that will cost hundreds of billions of dollars to implement,” he said. “Instead of asking the Legislature to review and consider this major proposal in an open and transparent manner, he’s rushing it through the opaque regulatory process at the BPU to limit public input.”

State Sen. Michael Testa (R-Vineland) agreed.

“The BPU doesn’t have the legal authority to use its regulatory powers to set environmental policy for the state,” he said. “While the so-called ‘decarbonization’ of buildings may be a goal of the Murphy administration, the BPU’s plan would increase electricity usage and destabilize our electric grid in apparent contravention of state law.

“The BPU also has no power to regulate carbon emissions, which is the clearly stated purpose of the plan. For many reasons, the BPU’s electrification proposal is a clear overreach of the agency’s authority.”

A spokesperson for the governor said the administration would decline the opportunity to comment.

Eric DeGesero, representing the Fuel Merchants Association of New Jersey and New Jersey Propane Gas Association, was more than happy to discuss the issue.

“Don’t take the governor at his word — judge him by his action,” he said. “With these regulations pending before the BPU on Wednesday, New Jersey families and businesses will be forced to give up their gas stoves and retrofit their heating systems to electric — despite Gov. Murphy pledging the opposite.”

The key issue for those opposed is cost.

“The cost to convert a single-family home to electric heat is in the tens of thousands of dollars and for an apartment building the conversion cost is in the millions,” DeGesero said. “To convert every building in the state will cost hundreds of billions of dollars, which will result in increased expenses and higher property taxes for every New Jerseyan.”

DeGesero also is bothered by the process.

“While the BPU allowed for a mere three weeks of public comments on this proposal, we believe New Jersey voters deserve to know the truth about the governor’s expensive and intrusive electrification plan, which will put a tremendous strain on our energy grid,” he said. “Through our education campaign, SmartHeatNJ.com, we’re asking voters to contact their legislators to put a stop to mandated electrification — which was never approved by the state Legislature in the first place.”

Bucco put it this way.

“This is yet another example of the Murphy administration’s penchant for quickly implementing major policy changes without giving people or their elected legislators a real chance to digest what they’re trying to do,” he said.

“If you’re constantly doing things in the dark of night, it’s probably because you know what you’re doing is wrong.”