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1921: Jersey City Under Commission Government
A Book of Achievement

The Problem Of Gas Supply

This Web version:

NE of the prime essentials necessary for the proper development of Jersey City is that its inhabitants should be supplied at all times with gas of the very best quality at the lowest possible price. Gas is the most used method of illumination for the poorer classes of our people, those who live in tenements and very small houses. The wonderful development of the gas stove is also making gas take the place of coal more and more in the ordinary household, and also as a means of heating in the cool days of fall and spring. In view of the trust control of our coal supply, by means of which coal has now been put at an exorbitant price, it is especially necessary that the people of the city, particularly the poorer classes, should be afforded a supply of good gas at a cheap price.

Present Low Quality of Gas.

Recently the Board of Public Utility Commissioners has permitted the Public Service Gas Company to lower the quality of the gas supplied and at the same time to increase its price. This act was taken contrary to the protests of the Commissioners of Jersey City and this and similar actions constitute the reason why the City Commissioners preferred charges against the Public Utility Commissioners before Governor Edwards, which resulted in their removal. Theoretically it is possible to apply to the Public Utility Commission and have the question of the quality of the gas and a reasonable price therefor passed upon by said board.

Practically such application means a long drawn out litigation, extremely expensive to the city and likely in the end to be decided by the courts, if not by the Commission, adversely to the city's claim. The reason for this is that the courts have practically destroyed by their decision the policy of regulation as an effective remedy for the public. Their decision as to what the company may include in the value of its plant is so vague as to permit the company to put in evidence a value much beyond the cost of the construction of the plant, and these values, if sustained as they generally are, justify the company in exacting an excessive rate.

Municipal Ownership.

In the judgment of the City Commissioners, therefore, there is little hope for an effective fight against the Gas Company in such litigation.

The public must make up their minds to be exploited by the Gas Company and to submit to an inferior quality of gas at an excessive price, or they must resort to municipal ownership. The gas at present supplied by the company is wretched in quality. It not only takes a much longer time for cooking or heating purposes, but the results obtained are extremely unsatisfactory and unduly expensive. This quality of gas is particularly unfitted for illuminating purposes. It is very difficult to get enough light by which to read satisfactorily or to properly illuminate living apartments.

In the judgment of the City Commissioners the only effective remedy for the injustice and hardship to which our people are now subjected in the matter of gas supply and its cost lies in municipal ownership.

Water Supply Example.

We now supply to the great satisfaction of our people water to every family and to every industry. Experience all over the United States has proved that municipal water supplies are more satisfactory in quality, more plentiful in quantity and very much cheaper in price than privately owned water supplies. The supplying of gas is from an engineering standpoint a very much simpler proposition than the supplying of water, where we must go up into the mountains a long distance away and impound water and bring it to the municipal limits through pipes. The process of generating gas is now thoroughly understood and can be easily per- formed within the city limits. When it is produced the problem of supplying it to the people through gas pipes is at least as simple a process as the supplying of water. Every physical or financial reason which justifies the supplying of water to the people applies equally to the supplying of gas.

By Vote of People.

While this is the judgment of the Commission, the law provides, and properly, that no municipal gas plant can be established except upon the vote of the people. It is therefore beyond the power of the Commissioners to inaugurate this policy unless the people so desire. The City Commissioners therefore recommend as the solution of the gas problem that the question of municipal ownership and operation of the gas supply shall be submitted to the people. If they are re-elected they will pass an ordinance submitting to the people at the election in November the question of a municipal gas supply. If the people so order the Commissioners will proceed to con-demn the pipes in the street belonging to the Public Service Gas Company. If it is feasible to obtain from the Gas Company by condemnation or private purchase a generating plant sufficient for supplying Jersey City with gas, such condemnation will he effected, otherwise the Commission will proceed to construct a gas generating plant sufficient for that purpose.

Better and Cheaper Gas.

The Commissioners believe that this policy when carried out would result in providing for our people a quality of gas not only superior to that which is now supplied, but much superior to the quality formerly supplied by the Public Service Gas Co., and that the price will be very much cheaper. Another advantage will he that following the modern practice the bonds issued to purchase and establishing the plant would contain a sinking fund provision, which would extinguish these bonds in a few years, and the city would ultimately own its plant free and clear and then could supply gas at extremely low rates. Such an enterprise, the Commissioners believe, would greatly strengthen the financial condition of Jersey City as its water supply enterprise has done, and would take away to a large extent the stake which the Public Service Corporation now has in controlling the politics of our State in order that they may be free from legislative or administrative control of their public utility monopoly.

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