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NJ American Water, the utility that provides water for 2.5 million New Jerseyans including some Barrington residents, will raise its rates 4.82 percent effective immediately despite strong opposition from the state Senate and a finding that the utility should have sought a rate decrease.
But in mid-March, the state Senate unanimously passed a resolution urging the state Rate Counsel — the agency expected to represent and protect the interests of utility consumers in cases before the BPU — to push for a rate decrease of $46 million.
Among the concerns expressed: the utility’s expenses include about $6 million in management incentive bonuses and other fees for lobbying, promotions and marketing; and the company already had rate hikes of about 10 percent in 2004, 12 percent in 2007, 15 percent in 2008 and 7 percent in 2010.
The BPU’s decision has Burlington County Freeholder Director Bruce Garganio upset. He has filed an Open Public Records Act request to better understand how the increase came to be.
“I want to find out how a financial expert’s opinion calling for a $46 million
decrease in rates suddenly turned into a $30 million award in additional
revenues,” Garganio said in a news release. “I think a $76 million swing is worthy of explanation.”
According to NJ American, the increase will help pay for $300 million the company spent over the past two years to replace and upgrade more than 8,000 miles of water and sewer mains. The increase also will finance a $30 million increase in revenues for the company, according to its news release.
“We are certainly aware and sensitive to the difficulties the current economic situation that many of our customers face, and we are mindful of that as we strive to ensure that the communities we serve never experience the potentially disastrous results of a failing water system,” NJ American President David K. Baker said in a statement after the BPU ruling.