U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-6th District, hosted a roundtable discussion on Wednesday with other politicians, environmental advocates, and civic leaders with a focus on improving infrastructure in New Jersey.
Pallone proposed a bill called the Leading Infrastructure for Tomorrow’s America Act, or the LIFT America Act, to rebuild America through major investments in clean energy. It includes $4 billion to upgrade the electric grid to accommodate more renewable energy and to make it more resilient, and $4 billion for the expansion of renewable energy use, including the installation of solar panels in low-income and underserved communities, Pallone said.
The proposed legislation would invest $23 billion in energy efficient programs – helping states and communities make public places more energy efficient and helping homeowners weatherize their homes.
“The electricity grid is falling apart and needs to be improved,” Pallone said. “I believe this infrastructure bill could be a major part of addressing climate change. Even if you deny climate change, you can meet some of the goals of the Paris climate accords. We are talking about moving toward renewable energy and electric vehicles.”
Former New Jersey Gov. James Florio chose to focus on water.
“It has been written that water is the new oil and that in the last century oil was the lubricant in the economy,” Florio said. “This is a good opportunity to do good work and to get people involved. Think rationally about how to preserve water. Campbell Soup used to make soup in New Jersey. They needed water. Pharmaceutical companies need water.”
New Brunswick Mayor Jim Cahill said his municipality operates its own water utility that is 150 years old and that his town has spent $10 million over the last decade to upgrade it.
“Two of my top priorities are strengthening the economy and combatting climate change, and one of the best ways for Congress to address both of these priorities now is by rebuilding and modernizing our nation’s crumbling infrastructure,” Pallone said. “The LIFT America Act that I introduced this month will strengthen our economy for the future by creating good paying jobs and investing in critical clean energy, broadband, drinking water and health care infrastructure.”
Piscataway Mayor Brian Wahler called infrastructure a big deal.
Norah Langweiler of the Jersey Renews & New Jersey Work Environmental Council called access to the Internet essential to public health.
Doug O’Malley of Environment New Jersey promoted energy efficiency. “This is about people being cool in the summer, reducing air pollution, and reducing carbon pollution,” O’Malley said. “There is no Republican pothole or Democrat pothole.”
Jorge Cardenas of PSE&G said that since 2014, PSE&G has invested $1.22 billion through the Energy Strong program to upgrade all of its electric substations that were damaged by water in Superstorm Sandy, which struck New Jersey in October 2012. The utility made investments that will create redundancy in the electric distribution system, reduced outages when damage occurs; and deployed technologies to better monitor system operations, enabling PSE&G to restore customers more quickly in the event of an electric outage.
Following up this effort, PSE&G is seeking to invest another $2.5 billion under Energy Strong 2 program to continue its investments in the electric and gas systems.
Gas upgrades also are being made under PSE&G’s Gas System Modernization Program. Once complete, the eight-year program, which started in 2016, will have replaced approximately 1,400 miles of cast iron and unprotected steel mains and related service lines – reducing methane emissions by an estimated 30,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent per year.
“The LIFT America Act has pretty much everything we touch,” Cardenas said.
The meeting took place at the Puerto Rico Action Board at 90 Jersey Ave. in New Brunswick.