NJ Sierra Club
At last week’s BPU meeting, the board voted on Docket No. AO20060471 – In the Matter of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities’ Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. This would allow the state’s gas, electric and investor-owned water and wastewater utilities to establish a regulatory asset that
would allow the affected utilities an opportunity to defer incremental COVID-19 related expenses. This includes additional costs from employees working from home as well as revenue lost during the pandemic. These utilities would be required to make a separate filing with the Board requesting review and approval of any proposed recovery of these costs, which may include rate increases.
“The BPU recently approved a plan that would allow utilities to raise rates because of money they lost during the pandemic. People and businesses are using less energy because of working from home. Utilities are selling less power, so they want to charge you more for using less. It is shameful to try to make up for lost revenue at a time when people don’t have the money and are worried about their jobs and paying bills. We pay them if we use too much power, and now there will be a rate increase because we’re using too little power,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “They also want to charge people for investments they had to make as employees work from home or need safety equipment in the field. It isn’t fair for utilities to balance their budgets on the backs of ratepayers.”
Last month, the Governor signed A4126/S2526 (Ega/Greenstein) that allows local units and authorities to waive interest and lien enforcement for certain delinquent water and sewer utility payments during emergency circumstances. The Governor should have CV’d the bill to strengthen it because the bill only allows water companies to suspend shutoffs instead of requiring them to.
“Right now people are having trouble paying their bills because of the health and economic emergency. Unemployment in New Jersey is already over a million people, and many people are worried about their jobs or paying the bills. What’s worse is that utilities can still shut off water and power during the pandemic, and they can still charge interest on late payments. NJ ratepayers shouldn’t also have to worry about an increase in their utility bills,” said Jeff Tittel. “We have this perverse system where utilities make money off of everything. No matter what they do, utilities seem to get taken care of over the ratepayers.”
The board also voted on Docket No. QO20060402 – In the Matter of Fiscal Year 2020 Clean Energy Budget – Extension. The docket extends the New Jersey Clean Energy Program’s Fiscal Year 2020 programs and budget through July 15, 2020 to allow staff more time to propose a 5th quarter Fiscal Year 2020 budget extension to run from July 15, 2020 until September 30, 2020. This week, the Governor signed a budget bill that takes $20 million from the Clean Energy Fund for NJ Transit, bringing the total amount raided from the Clean Energy Fund for NJ Transit this fiscal year to $102 million.
“By extending the Clean Energy Program’s budget, they are going forward with existing cuts. With the $102 million that the Governor and Legislature already robbed from the Clean Energy Fund on top of the additional $86 million, they are raiding almost $200 million from the fund. The BPU needs to make sure that what is left in the Clean Energy Fund stays there, because this is a time when it is needed most. These funds go toward saving families money while creating good jobs and reducing air pollution, especially in overburdened communities that are already hit hard by the pandemic,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “After we get through this pandemic and health emergency, we need to prepare for climate change. Cutting the Clean Energy Fund is short-sighted and will only hurt New Jersey in the long run.”