State promises more help keeping the heat on this winter

BY David Cruz, Senior Correspondent |

Let’s face it — summer is gone. And while temperatures Tuesday were moderate, it won’t be long before winter grips the state. And for people of lesser means the prospect is more fraught than most because girding against the season from inside an old house takes resources they don’t always have. While the state has provided weatherization services through a number of programs across several departments, Tuesday Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver came to Toms River to announce that her department, Community Affairs, and the Board of Public Utilities would consolidate their Weather Assistance Program and the Comfort Partners Program at BPU.

“Just think of the number of people all across the state who don’t have the ability to afford heating during the winter,” said Oliver. “We have older residents, who through the years, we’ve been able to provide with oil. We’ve been able to help with New Jersey Shares, but nothing gets to be more important in the long-term than helping people weatherize their homes to reduce down the cost.”

And now, with the two departments formally merging their weatherization assistance programs, they’ll be able to double the effectiveness and efficiencies of providing the services, which, in some cases are life saving.

“We find gas leaks in customer’s homes, insulation that’s not there, open sewers, plumbing leaks, broken windows, missing gutters, the list goes on and on,” said PSE&G DSM Asset Management Manager Joe Prusick.

This is also partly about the administration’s efforts to get departments to work together, where possible. Oliver said she hopes that the Legislature will see fit to increase funding for the programs once they see how much bang for buck they can deliver.

Board of Public Utilities President Joe Fiordaliso put it in a broader context.

“We have, as a society, a moral obligation to ensure the fact that we do everything humanly possible to mitigate the effects of climate change. We’re not joking here,” said Fiordaliso. “As far as I know, unless you know differently, this is the only piece of real estate we can live on.”

Saving the planet may be a lot to ask for from a weatherization program, but every bit helps. And a buttoned up home means warmer residents, using less energy and paying less for it, leaving some left over for things like rent, food and clothing. Even climate change skeptics can get behind that, right?

Lead funding for Peril and Promise is provided by Dr. P. Roy Vagelos and Diana T. Vagelos. Major support is provided by Marc Haas Foundation and Sue and Edgar Wachenheim, III.