Barranco welcomes chance for Legislature to have more say in state energy policy

Assemblyman Christian Barranco said he welcomes the comments by the state’s two highest legislative leaders, who appear to be ready to allow the Legislature to play a bigger role in developing a long-range energy plan for the state.

“As a member of the state Assembly, who has a background in electric energy generation, I believe strongly that my colleagues and I should be an integral part of the shaping of our state’s energy needs for today, tomorrow and in the next century,” Barranco (R-Lake Hopatcong) said.

Barranco, a member of IBEW Local 102 for 20 years, and an expert in the vital field of electrical power generation, transmission and distribution, was reacting to comments from Senate President Nick Scutari (D-Clark) and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Woodbridge) at the recent New Jersey Utilities Association event.

Scutari said the state should consider realism as much as idealism.

“When it comes to energy needs in New Jersey, we’re not just going to throw out everything we’ve known for hundreds of years,” he said. Coughlin said the state needs to take a “practical approach.”

Barranco said he feels energy policy in the state currently is being driven by the politics of climate crisis instead of natural, economic and feasible reality.

“You can create a policy that says everything in people’s homes or businesses must be electrified by some arbitrary date, but that’s not a realistic policy — it’s a political statement,” he said. “We need a policy based on how energy is going to be produced, how is it going to be distributed reliably and how much it is going to cost us. There are unalterable factors of physics and nature that you cannot avoid.”

Barranco noted that the current state energy policy (which relies heavily on offshore wind power) has been boosted by executive orders by Gov. Phil Murphy — and has gone unchallenged by state agencies and most lawmakers.

“I believe that Sen. Scutari and Speaker Coughlin are smart enough to know that New Jersey’s energy future should not rest on wind turbines,” he said. “There is not a country in the world where offshore wind has been a majority contributor to energy production.

“Why does the administration think that will happen in New Jersey?”

Barranco said the cornerstone to New Jersey’s energy requirements for the next century is nuclear power, and he is glad that Scutari and Coughlin are open to investing in more of it.

The state needs it, he said.

“Energy demands are going up, not down,” he said. “If we want to retain and attract business, we must have reliable sources of energy that are affordable. The only source to meet that demand outside of fossil fuels is nuclear.”