BERKELEY – The governing body is fighting against a proposed increase of 25 percent to New Jersey Natural Gas rates.
“Six years ago they proposed a 24 percent increase in rates. Just three short years ago, they proposed another 19 percent increase in rates. To be back so soon for another large increase is totally unacceptable,” Mayor Carmen Amato said.
According to New Jersey Natural Gas, their proposed rate increase will raise an average monthly bill to $141.17, up $28.07, or 24.8%, for a typical customer who uses 100 therms a month.
The system works like this: utility companies make a proposal for an increase, the Board of Public Utilities holds a hearing and then sets what the increase will be. In the past, people have been critical of this system, stating that utility companies overshoot a proposed increase knowing that the BPU will settle on a figure they can live with.
“A $336.84 yearly increase on our seniors on fixed incomes and our hard working families in the middle of a pandemic is outrageous,” Amato said. “The proposed increase would create an undue financial hardship on our homeowners. Especially our senior citizens who struggle on a daily basis to make ends meet. I am calling on the executives of NJNG to sharpen their pencils and rethink this excessive and unreasonable increase.”
He said that he has testified during the BPU hearings regarding those past increases and plans to testify this time, too.
The Township Council passed a resolution opposing the increase.
“When I learned of the proposed increase I was quite frankly, shocked. Our seniors and families are having a tough time as it is. To add this ill-timed increase is unconscionable,” Council President Angelo Guadagno said.
A statement from NJNG said the company has invested nearly $850 million in the system and operations since 2019. “These investments are already at work benefiting customers, but are not currently reflected in rates.”
“Nothing is more important to our company than safely and reliably delivering the energy our customers depend on for their homes and businesses,” said Steve Westhoven, President and CEO of New Jersey Resources. “We are dedicated to meeting that commitment in a sustainable, responsible way. The investments we’ve made in our system, as reflected in this filing, deliver on that commitment.”
The increase would be $165.7 million to its base rates, the company reported. This figure would cover the cost of investments such as replacing infrastructure as it ages to prevent leaks.
Another development was a green hydrogen fuel project to make natural gas more environmentally sustainable, they said. It includes a training facility for staff, third party contractors, and local emergency personnel.
NJNG said they are also seeking rate recovery for the Southern Reliability Link (SRL). This 30-mile transmission pipeline project is expected to be online this fall.
Currently, more than 85% of the natural gas supply in Ocean, Monmouth and Burlington counties is delivered from a single feed at the northern end of NJNG’s system. The Southern Reliability Link was the solution to make another venue for the delivery of gas in case something happens to the northern feed.
“We take our responsibility to deliver exceptional service at a reasonable rate seriously. This is achieved through a rigorous approval process with regulators,” Westhoven said. “We look forward to a successful resolution of this petition that is in the best interest of our customers and our company.”
Customers having difficulty paying their gas bill should be made aware of assistance programs found here: njng.com/energyassistance.