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The interior of an industrial boiler room. (Photo: Shutterstock).

State backs off plan to require expensive gas-to-electric boiler conversions

By David Wildstein, December 09 2022 9:10 am

Under pressure from some lawmakers facing re-election next year, New Jersey Commissioner of Environmental Protection Shawn LaTourette has dropped a controversial plan to force more  than 1,500 schools across to spend tens of millions to convert their boilers from gas to electric as a result of the state’s new Energy Master Plan.

The regulation was set to go into effect on December 6.

A coalition of  nearly three dozen business and labor groups joined together to oppose the plan, arguing that in addition to a cost of around $2 million per school, the regulation would result in higher property taxes and electric bills that would cost about 4-5 times more than gas.

“We were heartened to see NJDEP remove from recent regulations the costly boiler electrification requirement,” said Eric DeGesero, the executive vice president of the Fuel Merchants Association of New Jersey.  “Our concerns still remain that the Governor’s Energy Master Plan ultimately mandates all commercial buildings and residential homes be converted to electric, despite the astronomical price tag and the strain on our already fragile electric grid.”

The regulation would have also affected nearly 1,500 apartment buildings, 1,2000 commercial, industrial and manufacturing facilities in the state, and roughly 200 government buildings.

A group of legislators, including State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch), introduced legislation that would stop the regulation from going into effect until the legislature had time to thoroughly  review it.

“With the removal of the boiler mandate from NJDEP rules, we just dodged a multi-billion-dollar bullet that business owners, renters, school districts, and local governments couldn’t afford,” said State Sen. Anthony M. Bucco (R-Boonton). “This is a victory for now, but we need to make sure this proposal isn’t resurrected in the future. We’ll keep fighting to ensure that the other provisions of Governor Murphy’s Energy Master Plan, which would result in tens of thousands of dollars of unnecessary costs for families and homeowners are removed as well.”

Gov. Phil Murphy had no comment on the boiler issue in September, but said he was sympathetic to financial burden it would place in local schools and businesses.

“Obviously, we’re going to make sure we do it responsibly, in a way where, if there’s a fiscal burden, we do it the right way,” Murphy said at the time.

The coalition includes the: Air Conditioning Contractors of New Jersey; Alliance of Auto Service Providers/NJ; Associated Builders and Contractors’ NJ Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey; Chemistry Council of New Jersey; Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey; Engineers Labor-Employer Cooperative (ELEC 825); Fuel Merchants Association of New Jersey; International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Local 28; International Union of Operating Engineers Local 825; Meadowlands Chamber’ Mid-Atlantic Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association; NAIOP; NJ National Federation of Independent Businesses; NJ New Jersey Apartment Association; New Jersey Builders Association; New Jersey Business and Industry Association; New Jersey Chamber of Commerce; New Jersey Concrete and Aggregate Association’ New Jersey Jewish Business Alliance; New Jersey Pipe Trades Local 9, Local 24, Local 274, Local 322, Local 475, Local 692, Local 696 and Local 855; New Jersey State League of Master Plumbers; Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors; NJ Utility & Transportation Contractors Association/NJ.

While we all support the goal of clean energy, New Jersey businesses and families deserve policies that incentivize and support a clean energy transition, rather than mandate only one energy source,” DeGesaro said.

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