New Jersey still wants to enact new restrictions to decrease power plant emissions, but it has dropped a controversial measure to mandate thousands of schools and apartment buildings to replace their heating systems with electric boilers.
The Murphy administration’s first major project to electrify the building industry, New Jersey’s second-largest greenhouse gas emitter, suffered a huge defeat. The updated rule should be approved next month.
Business groups, builders, and unions who opposed the pricey boiler clause won when the state Department of Environmental Protection removed it.
Critics argued the measure might cost schools, governments, and companies $2 million each.
Clean-energy proponents claimed the reversal threatens the state’s 80-by-50 ambition to cut carbon pollution by 80% below 2006 levels by 2050. “You can’t electrify the building industry by extending the life of fossil fuel boilers,” said Environment New Jersey director Doug O’Malley. DEP must revisit this issue.
The agency said it would undertake a second round of negotiations with stakeholders to decrease climate pollution by reducing “greenhouse gas emission at a reasonable cost.”
Eric DeGesero, executive director of the Fuel Merchants Association of New Jersey, said he was glad the department removed a nasty and expensive requirement, but he doubts Murphy has abandoned his electrification aspirations. DeGeneres remarked, “It’s better than the alternative, but it is not over by a long shot.
Starting in 2025, most commercial and public buildings would have had to install electric boilers. The rule affected 1,500 apartment buildings, 1,500 public schools, and 1,200 commercial, industrial, and manufacturing facilities, totaling 8,000 buildings.
The business groups thanked Trump and DEP for revisiting the rule. New Jersey Business & Industry Association deputy chief government affairs officer Raymond Cantor stated, “They are beginning to comprehend the complexity and economic consequences of building electrification.
Cantor and other corporate lobbyists urged the Legislature to pass S-2671, which would block building electrification regulations until a cost review is completed.
The government wanted to transfer households from natural gas to electric heat pumps, so that bill passed a committee last term. Natural gas heats about 75% of New Jersey households.
The DEP said in its ruling that the administration’s ambition to electrify the building and transportation sectors will increase electricity demand over the next few decades. The EPA says natural gas power facilities will be needed to maintain grid resilience during the transition to 100% sustainable energy.
In response to accusations that the agency was going too slowly to phase out fossil fuels and cut emissions, staff responded, “The provisions will reduce in a methodical, planned manner to ensure system resilience and avoid leakage. Replaced New Jersey power plants with higher emissions cause leakage.
The proposal preserves tighter requirements for 94 fossil fuel power facilities and phases out two fuels with excessive carbon dioxide emissions. New Jersey rarely uses either.
The DEP claimed that the initial rulemaking regulated fossil-fueled electric generating units in New Jersey. However, O’Malley and others contended that the rule’s fossil fuel-burning boiler restrictions were crucial.