NJBPU Approves Natural Gas Rate Hike for Customers of NJNG
The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities approved a settlement on Friday, Sept. 23, in the base rate Administrative Law case filed by New Jersey Natural Gas Co. that reduces the company’s originally proposed rate increase of 24.2 percent to 7.4 percent. For the average residential customer, who uses 1,000 therms annually, the settlement results in an annual increase of $72.30.
However, the impact on ratepayers is lessened this winter by the company’s announced bill credit and the BPU’s provisionally approved Basic Gas Supply Service and Conservation Incentive Program rates. On Sept. 16, NJNG announced that it will provide a rate credit of approximately 16.70 cents per therm for the months of November 2016 through February 2017, which is expected to save a typical residential customer approximately $103. Altogether, on average, a residential customer will see a net reduction in this or her annual bill of approximately $2.11. The new rates will take effect on Oct. 1,
The company’s initial filing request of a 24.2 percent rate increase included costs associated with the Southern Reliability Link pipeline project. Those costs are not included as part of the settlement.
Friday’s settlement was agreed upon by all the parties including the AARP, the N.J. Division of Rate Counsel, TAQA-GEN-X LLC, New Jersey Utility Shareholders Association and the BPU.
“The board is satisfied with the settlement reached through the parties’ negotiations and thankful those efforts were able to significantly reduce the rate impact upon the company’s customers,” said Richard S. Mroz, president of the BPU.
Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, hailed the decision as a nail in the coffin of the proposed Southern Reliability Link pipeline.
The SRL 30-inch pipeline would begin in Chesterfield, Burlington County, and run through the Pinelands to the shore to connect to the utility system in Manchester Township, Ocean County – some 30 miles.
The New Jersey Sierra Club joined many others in opposing the initial rate hike as it opposed the SRL pipeline.
“Even though we would have preferred no rate hike, we view this 7.4 percent hike as good news in the fight against NJNG’s pipeline. NJNG were forced to negotiate for 18 percent less than what they wanted. This cut could slow down the process for the Southern Reliability Link, especially when it comes to finances. They may now need to get outside financing. NJNG wanted a 24 percent hike so that the ratepayers could finance their unneeded and dirty pipeline. They want us to fund their effort to destroy our environment and cut a scar through the Pinelands, open space and preserved farmland,” said Tittel. “Thanks to all the people who came out to the hearing, time is now on our side.”
According to Tittel, the claims made by NJNG that the pipeline would provide resiliency in the event of another damaging storm like Sandy are a smoke screen; instead the pipeline would result in fostering more growth along the coast while providing five times as much natural gas for Ocean County than is necessary.
“The purpose of this pipeline is potentially for a new gas-powered plant in Oyster Creek or the Heritage Mineral development project in Ocean County,” he said in a press release.
— Pat Johnson