By: David P. Willis |
Public hearings will begin Monday to give residents a chance to sound off on Jersey Central Power & Light’s proposal to raise electric rates to pay for the utility’s restoration efforts following superstorm Sandy.
The first is scheduled for Monday at 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. in room 119 of the Ocean County Administration Building in Toms River. The second is April 16 at 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. at the Morris County Administration Building, fifth floor, in Morristown.
The third hearing is April 24 at 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. in the Freehold Township Municipal Building.
In February, the Morristown-based utility filed a request with the state Board of Public Utilities to recover about $603 million of the $630 million it spent on Sandy, including $354 million in capital expenditures and $258 million on other items, including the cost of calling in utility crews from around the country.
It’s the second request for a rate increase the utility has filed since Nov. 30. At that time, JCP&L said it wanted to raise electric bills by 1.2 percent to pay for the damage to its system after Hurricane Irene and an October snowstorm in 2011.
If approved by the BPU, the two requests will hike rates 4.5 percent overall for an average JCP&L residential customer using 650 kilowatt hours of electricity.
The rate request would result in an increase in the average monthly bill from $98.10 to $102.54, or $4.44, for a residential customer using 650 kilowatts of electricity.
The proposal has attracted the opposition of AARP, which has recommended its members attend the hearings.
“It could have a very significant impact on what folks pay for their utility bills,” said Douglas Johnston, the AARP’s governmental affairs manager in New Jersey. “The public should not pay a single dime more for electric rates than is absolutely necessary.”
Superstorm Sandy turned off power to 1.1 million JCP&L customers, including hundreds of thousands at the Jersey Shore.
The damage in Monmouth and Ocean counties, where more than 469,000 customers lost power, was among the most severe in New Jersey. High winds snapped trees and limbs, cutting power lines. Utility poles splintered like sticks. Transformers popped and sparked. Some substations were flooded.
More than a week later, another 100,000 lost power when a nor’easter dumped heavy snow on the area.
The restoration efforts were the biggest in JCP&L’s history. At its height, the company said about 13,000 people were working to get the lights back on, including about 8,500 linemen, a number augmented by crews from utilities in 17 states as far away as California.
Other costs include cutting and clearing about 65,000 trees and replacing 6,700 utility poles, 19,200 crossarms, 3,600 transformers and 400 miles of wire.