State legislators said Thursday that Jersey Central Power & Light's request for a rate hike may be over – and a reduction in rates is now possible.
The electrical utility had asked state regulators last year for $31 million rate increase, but faced staunch opposition from elected officials who have consistently blasted FirstEnergy, JCP&L's parent company, for its response to Tropical Storm Irene and Hurricane Sandy's impacts on its service area.
On Wednesday, a state administrative law judge not only filed a brief rejecting the rate hike proposal, but called for the state Board of Public Utilities to reduce rates by $207 million – enough to reduce customers' electric bills by as much as one third.
"We opposed JCP&L's rate increase proposal on principle," said state Sen. James Holzapfel, a Republican who represents northern Ocean County. "There
were serious charges from state regulators that the utility had been
earning more than was permitted. At the same time, the utility had
demonstrated serious failures in responding to hurricanes Irene and
Sandy and numerous other storms. It was clear JCP&L was both
charging customers too much and not investing in preventative
maintenance and upgrades that would prevent outages. Given these
inconsistencies, we continue to believe JCP&L doesn't deserve an
extra cent of ratepayers' money."
would be a real victory for customers who have long believed that
JCP&L has been intentionally ignoring New Jersey's needs to ship
increased profits to their parent company in Ohio," said Assemblyman David Wolfe (R-Ocean).
Assemblyman Gregory P. McGuckin called JCP&L's 1.1 million customers statewide "abused" by FirstEnergy and said he was looking into "allegations of overcharging and shoddy maintenance by JCP&L since 2012."
A company spokesman
told the Newark Star-Ledger that the company will file a reply to the judge's brief, saying the situation "is not over."
It will ultimately fall to the BPU to set energy rates for JCP&L's customers.