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Op-Ed: Supporting an Energy-Strong Future for New Jersey

PSE&G's $4 billion grid upgrade makes smart sense in wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Hurricane Sandy’s impact on everyone and everything in New Jersey had one undeniable focus: It brought to the attention of residents, businesses, and elected representatives the importance of our fragile infrastructure systems.

The importance of our roads, transit, electric, gas, and water systems are too often taken for granted. We flip a switch and hope the lights go on. Gas and water lines are largely underground and out of mind. Hurricane Sandy changed all that in the public mindset, in as dramatic a way as anyone could have imagined or foreseen. It changed the very environment in which we must live, work, and raise a family.

Hurricane Sandy made it clear just how vulnerable we are without a resilient and effective infrastructure system. Loss of power disrupted the economic and personal livelihoods of New Jersey’s businesses and residents. The devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy has brought home the urgency of improving New Jersey’s fragile infrastructure without delay.

Our state’s largest and oldest utility, PSE&G, has stepped up and proposed a long-term, and affordable investment plan that should be embraced by all New Jerseyans.

In response to Hurricane Sandy the company has proposed Energy Strong -- a 10-year, $4 billion improvement plan to strengthen and modernize its electric and gas operating systems. The plan is designed to reduce power outages caused by storms by protecting their systems from storm surges. Additionally, the plan calls for strengthening power lines and modernizing the company’s gas distribution system. To pay for these investments, the company is seeking approval from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to earmark monies for these new investments from funds already being paid by customers.

All New Jerseyans who have lived through the impact of Hurricane Sandy know firsthand that these improvements are both necessary and long overdue. These investment decisions need to be expedited, so that residents, businesses, and towns can expedite their own rebuilding efforts.

Upgrading PSE&G’s systems to protect us all from future storms and to maintain systems that reflect 21st century solutions is at the heart of the company’s plan.

The benefits to all residents of the state are so obvious that it is disheartening to see self-serving opposition develop from the New Jersey Chemical Industry Council, a trade association representing large chemical companies. While lower costs for business are certainly a worthy goal, it should not be at the expense of those who suffered devastating losses from storms. Must we really wait for the next Hurricane Sandy before we do anything?

A strong infrastructure is the cornerstone investment in New Jersey’s quality of life and economic competiveness.

PSE&G’s Energy Strong Plan is a forward-looking investment solution that all New Jerseyans desperately need not only to survive, but to thrive over the long term. It should be given the go ahead as quickly as possible.

Read Steven S. Goldenberg's opposing view

Philip K. Beachem is the president of the New Jersey Alliance for Action, a nonprofit, nonpartisan association founded in 1974 whose main focus is New Jersey’s infrastructure.

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