At today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, President of the Board of Public Utilities Richard Mroz was pressed by Senator Bob Smith about what he would do if reappointed to the board. Mroz was appointed in 2014 by Governor Chris Christie and has served in the position for ten months.
According to Smith, Mroz needs to do more to encourage the BPU to “get off their tookus” in order to overcome what he perceives as a “failure” in creating opportunities for wind and other renewable energy in New Jersey.
“Every other state in the nation is doing more with renewable energy,” said Smith who is also the Chair of the Environment and Energy Committee. “The Board of Public Utilities is an obstruction. It is not helping us move into the future.”
For Smith, the issue of wind energy is a pressing one that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. But not all committee members agree. According to Michael Doherty, (R-23) the most important issue is a strengthening of the currently existing energy infrastructure.
“In Hunterdon County, we rely mainly on electric for our utilities,” Doherty said. “I don’t remember nearly as many power outages when I was growing up in New Jersey or as a young man.”
According to Doherty, the BPU under Mroz’s leadership needs to mainly focus on improving existing systems while keeping wind and solar as a lower priority.
Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-2) questioned Mroz on the BPU’s opinions on climate change and what he would do to enact positive changes to the BPU to help avoid damage to utilities in New Jersey to in the event of future storms like Superstorm Sandy.
“My concern is that we all see and will continue to see the effects of Sandy,” Lesniak said.
Mroz responded saying, “Climate change is something that I think everyone is focused on and concerned about. I consider climate change to be a great factor that we need to be concerned about and one of many we need to be concerned about.”
He continued by stating that the BPU would continue to prepare for weather-related events. Mroz also ensured that the BPU would continue to work with other state agencies like the Department of Environmental Protection to ensure issues like the ones brought forth at today’s hearing are addressed.
Commissioner Joseph Fiordaliso was also up for nomination to the board. Both he and Mroz were approved.