By Michele Siekerka, President and CEO, New Jersey Business & Industry Association
The dramatic cold experienced in our region over the last two winters – and the corresponding increase in the cost to heat a home or business – only further illustrates a growing problem for both homeowners and businesses throughout New Jersey.
Those increased costs have caused our state’s businesses to have to make difficult choices with regard to hiring and expansion – choices that have negative consequences for New Jersey’s economy.
Without an additional supply of clean energy, New Jersey’s businesses and families will continue to pay a heavy price. The proposed PennEast Pipeline, which would supply natural gas from Pennsylvania to businesses and families in New Jersey, would help provide that vital supply for our region.
Studies have shown that if another pipeline existed in the region during the winter of 2013/2014, New Jersey businesses and families would have saved an estimated $378.4 million in energy costs in just that year alone. That number climbs to nearly $1 billion when savings for our neighbors in Pennsylvania are factored in. These numbers represent real savings to both businesses and residents alike and would provide a much-needed boost to our economy.
Should there be any doubt as to the need for more affordable, clean, domestic energy, it should be put to rest by the fact that every utility in the state of New Jersey has signed on as a customer so that their consumers in New Jersey will have direct access to affordable, regional gas.
But an increase in a reliable supply of clean natural gas is not the only benefit the proposed pipeline will deliver.
The PennEast Pipeline would support approximately 12,000 temporary jobs through the need for construction, retail, professional services, and rental equipment. Ongoing operation of the PennEast Pipeline Project also will maintain nearly 100 permanent jobs.
The design, construction and investment in the pipeline will generate some $1.6 billion in total economic impact to our regional economy, while ongoing operation will generate $23 million in economic benefits and support $8 million in wages annually.
The economic benefits are indisputable, and we are committed to working with the PennEast Pipeline Company. PennEast has demonstrated its commitment to pursuing a route for the pipeline that minimizes disturbances to our businesses, families, and environment. For instance, 44 percent of the pipeline in New Jersey would be co-located with other rights of way. It is one of a number of route variations PennEast has implemented to be responsive to our community and minimize impact.
With today’s technology, environmental protections and safety standards, we are fortunate that we do not have to choose between protecting the environment and providing safe, clean, affordable energy. We can successfully achieve both goals.
Our hard-working residents and our business community deserve a safe, clean, reliable and affordable source of energy. For that reason, I encourage energy, environmental, business and community leaders to come together and put the best interest of New Jersey’s economic future first by supporting the PennEast Pipeline project.
Michele Siekerka is president and CEO of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association.