Author Archive: Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula

Water Companies Need to Rehabilitate Infrastructure

Recently, I was at New Jersey American Water’s Canal Road Water Treatment Plant to discuss New Jersey’s Water infrastructure organized by the Somerset County Business Partnership and New Jersey American Water. I was thankful for the opportunity to share my thoughts as an engineer who worked in the industry for 30 years and became a policymaker and chairman of the Assemblyman Telecommunications and Utilities Committee.

One of the important outcomes of the session was the need to accelerate the replacement and rehabilitation of this critical infrastructure using a BPU program that can be used by water companies to address aging infrastructure in a way that is both accelerated and financially prudent to rate payers.

Offshore Drilling off Atlantic Coast Poses Grave Risk to Jersey Shoreline

Promoted by Rosi Efthim

The catastrophic proportions of one of the largest oil spills in U.S. history with more than 210,000 gallons of oil is continuing to leak daily from a ruptured oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico is continuing to threaten the shores of Louisiana and Florida. The unprecedented underwater leak has led to hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil spewing unchecked into the Gulf and moving to the coast, between the mouth of the Mississippi River and Florida.

The “potentially unprecedented environmental disaster,” as President Obama describes the Gulf of Mexico oil spill which was caused by an explosion and fire on the Transocean Deepwater Horizon drilling rig followed by a ruptured well. It is sadly noted that 11 workers were killed in the explosion. In addition, the total bill to include clean-up and compensation for damages could exceed $14 billion.

Environmental scientists estimate the ecological and biological consequences could last for years, if not decades. These include, oil remaining in the sediment of a marsh for 20 years, complete plant and animal species being wiped out, and oyster reefs being endangered. Several attempts to contain it have been unsuccessful and only estimated 15 to 20 percent of oil can be recovered from water.

Then, there is the question of corporate responsibility of the London-based BP Plc that owned the oil involved in the recent spill as well as the regulatory environment that oversees the offshore drilling. Three years ago, BP was reeling from accusations of putting profits before safety because of the high incidence of on-the-job accidents in its Texas City refinery, including a deadly explosion. That was turned around by new management, but, it appears that accidents still continue.

Gov. Christie Talking The Talk; But, Is He Walking The Walk?

Promoted from the diaries by Rosi

Gov. Christie is talking the talk, but, is he walking the walk? That would not seem to be the case from his proposed $158 million cuts to the state’s highly successful Clean Energy Program administered by the Board of Public Utilities and the zeroing out the $65 million in Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) funds – raised in state auctions of unused quotas by companies to entities that ‘pay to pollute.’

The cuts seem contrary to the Governor’s plans to promote the state’s clean energy industry. Take Petra Solar, for instance -hundreds of jobs created are testament to the importance of this program to help provide solar companies with seed capital.

Petra Solar manufactures and provides solar solution to utility companies, and other commercial and residential customers. By creating its own research and development, and manufacturing supply chain, Petra Solar has grown from a few employees at the beginning of 2009 to their current employee-base of roughly 113.

Solar Freeze & Blowing Off Wind

The $158 million cuts to the state’s Clean Energy Program will create a Solar Freeze as no new projects will be funded for the rest of year 2010. Many wind projects that would have relied on seed capital from the BPU will be blown off as well.

And yet, in his policy statement on the energy statement below – Gov. Christie says:

The NJ coastline is optimal for installation of off-shore wind farms and we need to take steps to promote that industry… [snip]

As we do so, it has to be with the understanding that production of renewable energy is presently very expensive.

Raiding Ratepayer Funds Will Raise Energy Bills In The Future

Christie’s actions belie his words. By raiding $158 million from the state’s Clean Energy Program funded by the Societal Benefit Charge, he has taken away an important means to help ratepayers reduce their energy consumption by investing in the same energy-star appliances that he touts in his energy policy. A major part of the Societal Benefit Charge is dedicated to such energy efficiency programs for homes and businesses. Christie’s raid will cause many grant applications to be denied in the upcoming year.

In his policy statement, Christie says:

To reduce the cost of energy, we have to reduce the consumption of energy.  Focusing on increased efficiencies, will lead to increased energy savings. This is as simple as energy-efficient light bulbs, windows, insulation, and appliances. The cheapest power is the power we don’t have to generate, distribute and deliver…

Corzine administration was the first New Jersey administration to take renewable energy and alternative energy economy to an all-time high with landmark initiatives and breakthrough legislations – Global Warming Response Act and Global Warming Solutions (RGGI) Funds, and the Energy Master Plan (EMP) goals to support the state’s aggressive Clean Energy Program successfully administered by the BPU. I am proud to be a central part of all these initiatives – as an architect of the EMP, sponsor of RGGI Funds, and being Chairman of the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee.

Did Christie want to wipe the slate clean by raiding funds from RGGI and the state’s Clean Energy Program so he could resort to Christienomics when it comes to renewable energy? Aren’t his plans, reinventing Corzine’s policies as his own, so that his administration will get credit for New Jersey advancing as a green (renewable energy) economy? That would be contrary to the spirit of bipartisanship and would be contrary to the interest of the people? Can we afford to invest taxpayer dollars in the creation of Christieconomics?