TRENTON, N.J. – On Wednesday, the state Board of Public Utilities will consider a request from Jersey Central Power & Light to increase residential electric rates by 9 percent.
“I’m very concerned about the message we are sending to ratepayers in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. The call for increased rates at this time is completely tone-deaf,” said Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso (R-Monmouth).
JCP&L is seeking to raise $185.3 million from ratepayers to cover the costs of improvements to its electric network.
“Infrastructure upgrades are important for mitigating storm outages and aiding reliability; however, this rate increase will negatively impact our already beleaguered residents,” DiMaso continued. “It’s not only this rate increase from JCP&L – the Turnpike Authority hiked their tolls and the state is raising the gas tax in what has been a financially challenging and devastating year for many, many residents.”
In February, prior to statewide coronavirus shutdowns, DiMaso and other Monmouth county lawmakers asked the board to thoroughly evaluate JCP&L’s request to ensure the ratepayers are not unfairly impacted. The BPU agenda for Wednesday’s meeting says that a stipulation, if approved by the board, could delay an immediate increase to customer bills.
“A delay in an eventually higher electric bill is little consolation to residents who have lost their jobs because of the coronavirus,” said DiMaso. “We may be able to keep the lights on for the time being, but eventually the bills will need to be paid.”
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, all New Jersey Internet providers and gas, electric, and water utilities have suspended service shutoffs until at least March 15, 2021 for residential customers.
“I am asking the BPU and JCP&L to go back to the drawing board to consider other measures that would be less of a hit to ratepayers,” said DiMaso. “They should be looking to control costs in an attempt to eliminate a need for a rate increase entirely or at the very least, suspend the most minimal increase until the economy gets back on track.”
The BPU meeting will be held on Wednesday at 10 a.m. The public may view the meeting on the BPU’s YouTube channel at youtube.com/c/NewJerseyBoardofPublicUtilitiesNJBPU.