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JCP&L Rate Hike Should Be Denied, Senator Urges BPU

State Sen. Kevin O'Toole calls utility's request 'insulting' at Trenton hearing Wednesday.

State Sen. Kevin O’Toole (R-40th District) told Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L) officials Wednesday morning their request for a $31.5-million rate hike following Hurricane Sandy was “insulting.”

O’Toole, speaking at a state Board of Public Utilities (BPU) hearing in Trenton to discuss the rate hike, told Patch during a short recess he was given the opportunity to directly address JCP&L President Donald Lynch about the utilities response to the storm and “what went right and what went wrong.”

“I told him it (the proposed rate increase) was insulting,” said O'Toole. “We critiqued as to why it was necessary and I said that perhaps it would be wise to keep money for the repairs from New Jersey in New Jersey” and not place the money in the company’s general coffers.

JCP&L apologized for some of the things that went wrong during the storm, said O'Toole.

Other utilities, including PSE&G, Cablevision and the Passaic Valley Sewage Authority, were also in attendance at the hearing.

According to a Star-Ledger report, the proposed rate hike would mean the average residential customer would see their monthly bill rise by 1.4 percent, or $1.51 increase each month for a customer using 650 kilowatt hours of electricity.

The BPU is a state agency authorized to oversee regulated utilities, which provide critical services such as natural gas, electricity, water, telecommunications and cable television.

O'Toole recently penned a letter to BPU President Robert Hanna asking him to immediately deny the request to raise rates to pay for infrastructure improvements.

“For JCP&L to apply for a rate increase after the poor performance they showed in the aftermaths of Hurricane Irene, the October 2011 snowstorm and now Hurricane Sandy, there are absolutely no grounds on which this request should have any merit,” O'Toole said in his letter.

O'Toole said he could not speculate when BPU may make a decision on the proposed rate hike.

He said the electric company does not deserve the rate increases because of misinformation from the company, lack of communication and lack of coordination as JCP&L attempted to restore power to its customers during recent outages caused by storms.

“The state’s second-largest utility has no shame,” O’Toole said in a written statement. “Its parent company has raked in a $149 million increase in net income over last year, as the utility failed to adequately serve ratepayers in the aftermaths of Hurricane Irene and Sandy.”

“Their application to suck more out of our residents’ pockets is utterly offensive,” he added.

O'Toole recently attended a meeting with the mayors and township officials in District 40. He presented the issues and concerns discussed in the meeting directly to the presidents of the utility companies, which were well received, he said.

O'Toole, who represents a district that encompasses towns in Bergen, Morris, Passaic and Essex counties recently sponsored the Storm Response Act of 2012, which seeks to hold utility companies accountable for their response times during emergencies.

O'Toole worked with Wayne officials to help bring much-needed gasoline to the township in the days following Sandy.

O'Toole is sponosring legislation that would hold utility companies accountable for their response times during emergencies. It would also require gas stations and other facilities to have generators on hand to ensure residents have access to power and gasoline during emergencies situations.

Read the letter in its entirety in the photo section of this article.

— Have a question or news tip? Contact editor Daniel Hubbard at Daniel.Hubbard@patch.com or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

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