Business Finance Local News New Jersey

New Jersey Lawmakers Are Calling on Regulators to Deny the Proposed Increase in Gas Prices

New Jersey Lawmakers Are Calling on Regulators to Deny the Proposed Increase in Gas Prices

New Jersey lawmakers are urging regulators to deny a 24% hike in natural gas rates put forth by a major utility company in the state.

New Jersey Natural Gas has submitted a proposal to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to increase customer bills by $222.6 million. This increase will allow the company to recover a $850 million investment made since 2021 to improve the safety, reliability, security, and environmental impact of its delivery system and operations.

If the plan is approved by regulators, the monthly bill for the average residential heating customer using 81 therms would increase by 23.6%, from $122.84 to $151.85, as stated by the company.

With approximately 576,000 gas customers in the state, the company is justifying the need to increase its base rate in order to fund essential upgrades to its operations and distribution systems.

Ensuring the safe and reliable delivery of energy to our customers is our main focus, stated Steve Westhoven, president and CEO of New Jersey Natural Gas. “The investments in our infrastructure demonstrate our commitment and the crucial role our system plays in achieving New Jersey’s carbon reduction goals.”

However, members of the Legislature’s GOP minority sent a letter to state utility regulators this week, urging them to deny the company’s “excessive” rate adjustment proposal.

“Approving the rate increase would blatantly deviate from the board’s mission statement to ensure affordable rates to all members of the public who seek such services,” Sen. Carmen Amato, Jr. and Assembly members Brian Rumpf and Gregory Myhre expressed in a letter addressed to BPU President Christine Guhl-Sadovy.

The lawmakers emphasized the importance of reaching out urgently on behalf of constituents who could face severe financial impacts if the board approves the proposed rate increase.

“Without a doubt, the rate increase would result in a direct rise in the cost of living, posing a threat to the ability of numerous ratepayers who are already facing financial difficulties to maintain their current housing,” they expressed.

New Jersey is implementing a bold plan to transition its over 9 million residents from natural gas and gasoline for home heating, potentially leading to higher energy costs for consumers in the future.

The state already has some of the highest energy costs in the nation, and consumer advocates point out that the higher prices this winter were challenging for low- and even middle-income households, leading to a significant increase in the number of people falling behind on their bills.

If given the green light, this would mark the first increase in natural gas rates in two years. In 2022, state utility regulators gave the green light to significant rate hikes for the state’s four gas providers, impacting millions of customers. PSEG, a utility company that provides services to 1.9 million residents statewide, recently approved a rate hike of almost 25%, resulting in an annual increase of $256.38 for the average residential customer.

Energy industry officials have emphasized that the Northeast’s energy market is partly constrained by a lack of pipeline infrastructure. According to reports, the natural gas shortage has resulted in increased costs for consumers.

However, environmentalists argue that constructing additional gas pipelines will further solidify the state’s reliance on fossil fuels, contributing to the emissions linked to climate change. They are advocating for a quicker transition to wind, solar, and renewable energy sources.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *