The state Board of Public Utilities should deny Jersey Central Power and Light a 4.5 percent rate hike to cover its costs from Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy, Ocean County Freeholder Joseph Vicari said this week.
“Faced with rising rebuilding and insurance costs, the absolute last thing our Sandy-stricken communities need is a higher utility bill,” said Vicari in a letter to Dianne Solomon, president of the board.
The county's freeholder board are among a slew of local officials who have taken JCP&L to task since Sandy struck the Jersey Shore, accusing the company of taking too long to restore power to thousands of customers in the storm's wake and not communicating adequately with local residents and public officials.
The utility and the staff of the BPU reached a tentative deal in late February raise rates 4.5 percent to cover JCP&L's costs stemming from the two hurricanes and several nor'easters, but the hike requires the blessing of the full board before it can be implemented.
“This request from the utility company is unreasonable and I urge the BPU not to place another financial burden on our residents,” said Vicari, who previously asked for a moratorium on rate hikes in storm-stricken communities.
The freeholder board has also long asked New Jersey governors to appoint an Ocean County resident to the BPU, a request that has never been fulfilled.
JCP&L says it needs the rate hike to cover $736 million in repair bills. If the increase is approved by the BPU, the average customer's bill would go up by about $4.41 per month, NJ.com reported.