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New Jersey Utility Spending Targets Economy

New Jersey regulators Thursday morning approved $956 million in spending by five of the state's major power and gas utilities. The utilities had submitted proposals earlier this year in response to a call for expedited infrastructure spending as a means to stimulate New Jersey's economy.

The approved proposals were submitted to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) by Atlantic City Electric ($28 million), Elizabethtown Gas ($60 million), New Jersey Natural Gas ($71 million), Public Service Electric & Gas Co. (PSE&G) ($694 million) and South Jersey Gas ($103 million).

The original PSE&G proposal, filed on Jan. 22, would have resulted in $698 million of spending. The amount approved was part of an agreement with BPU staff and the Department of the Public Advocate, Division of Rate Counsel, PSE&G said.

During the next two years, PSE&G said it will spend about $273 million to replace and reinforce aging natural gas cast iron and bare steel mains and services and upgrade metering and regulating stations. The work will require the utility to begin hiring PSE&G gas construction employees between April and June. Additional jobs will be filled by outside contractors once bids are awarded. The gas distribution stimulus work is expected to create about 300 new PSE&G and contractor jobs.

PSE&G said it will spend $421 million on electric system improvements, including $50 million for replacement of mercury vapor municipal street lighting with more efficient induction fluorescent lighting. Other electric system work will include replacement of aged underground cable facilities, network transformers and relays, and the upgrading of overhead cable, transformers and substation equipment. About 600 new utility and contractor positions are expected to be created to perform the work.

New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine outlined an economic stimulus plan for the state in a joint session of the New Jersey Legislature last October. A key component of the plan was a call for expedited infrastructure spending. All of the state's major utilities responded.

Proposals from Rockland Electric and Jersey Central Power & Light are still pending approval. BPU staff is also reviewing utility proposals for more than $300 million in energy efficiency initiatives.

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