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Op-Ed: Expanding Energy Infrastructure Is Key to Growth and Security

Polls show widespread support for making sure we’re prepared for future extreme weather in NJ and the nation

James Benton

Recent disruptive weather -- like Hurricane Sandy and the polar vortex -- have propelled the oil and natural-gas sector to the fore of the public awareness. Fortunately, U.S. advancements in domestic shale-gas exploration have unlocked vast energy reserves in this country. Those new supplies have significantly lowered the cost of keeping our homes warm and businesses working.

Hurricane Sandy focused New Jersey’s collective attention on the need to update and restore our energy- delivery system, strengthen the infrastructure, and prepare for future incidents.

We are joined by people across America who support expanding America’s vital energy infrastructure.

A December poll by Harris Interactive revealed that 93 percent of registered voters agree that increased development of energy infrastructure would help create jobs, while 89 percent agree that infrastructure investment would strengthen America’s energy security.

In New Jersey, there are several priority areas to focus public attention on to accomplish the mission to serve the public and achieve robust economic growth. Storm impacts to the waterway transportation network, including the Arthur Kill, the product storage area and roadway transportation access all need to be addressed by cooperative public-private initiatives.

The oil and gas industry remains committed to continuing to work with local, state, and federal governments to achieve a critical and effective response when another event does occur. This extends to sharing information with stakeholder groups, like emergency responders, water and telecommunications to mention a few, that provide response and critical recovery to impacted areas.

Further, we recognize that we need assistance in the form of reliable partners in energy delivery -- in particular, our electric energy providers. Electric utilities in New Jersey, such as PSE&G, have proposed such needed upgrades to our electrical network and these reforms need to move forward in a timely manner to assist the rebuilding of our infrastructure. The need to upgrade our New Jersey electrical energy delivery system was made clear during Hurricane Sandy and the impacts of delay in the effort to accomplish this initiative are critical to energy consumers, small and large, in the state.

Our message is simple: Let’s recognize the value of investing in our energy network and work together to streamline the regulatory and permitting process, so that small delays don’t potentially add up to huge costs -- economic or otherwise -- for New Jersey consumers.

Investment in New Jersey’s energy infrastructure is a major win for local and state governments, from the jobs created and the economic boost that comes from an improved, reliable energy infrastructure delivery system. The heavy price of delay can be measured in terms of added costs, lack of job creation, and delay in fully restoring New Jersey’s economy.

This cooperative result, should a disruptive future event occur, will be a stronger energy infrastructure that will work to improve resilience, and ultimately enable a more efficient restoration.

Jim Benton is executive director of the New Jersey Petroleum Council, a post he has held since 1983.

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