State of New Jersey

Division of The Ratepayer Advocate
31 Clinton Street, 11th Fl
P. O. Box 46005
Newark, New Jersey 07101




Director and Ratepayer Advocate



In the Matter of the Petition of Consumers New Jersey Water Company, Inc. for Approval of an Increase in Rates for Water Service and other Tariff Changes

BPU Docket No. WR03120974
OAL Docket No.: PUCRS 00200-2004S

Phillipsburg, New Jersey
March 25, 2004
2:00 p.m.

Good afternoon everyone, my name is Susan McClure. I am an attorney representing the New Jersey Division of the Ratepayer Advocate (“Ratepayer Advocate”). Our office was created by the New Jersey Legislature to protect the interests of all utility consumers and to represent ratepayers in cases such as this where a utility seeks changes in their rates or services.

In order to effectively represent the public in utility rate cases, our office uses a team of lawyers, accountants, engineers, and economists to analyze requests for rate and service changes filed by companies who provide energy, water, and telecommunications services in New Jersey.

In the present case, Consumers New Jersey Water Company, Inc. (“Consumers”, now known as “Aqua New Jersey, Inc.”) is a public utility that collects, treats and distributes water for retail service to more than 38,0000 throughout portions of the State of New Jersey. Consumers is also engaged in the wastewater collection and transmission business and currently serves more than 3,000 customers, however, this matter only involves the water side of the business. Consumers serves water customers in various municipalities in western New Jersey and classifies its franchise territory through three divisions: Northern Division, Central Division and the Southern Division.

On December 4, 2003, Consumers filed a petition with the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (“Board” or “BPU”) seeking approval for an increase in rates for water service of 14.6% or $2.6 million in annual revenues. Rates are proposed to become effective on September 4, 2004. The average residential water customer consuming 18,000 gallons per quarter would experience an increase of approximately $14.00 per quarter.

The Ratepayer Advocate is currently conducting a complete and thorough investigation of Consumers’ request for a rate increase in order to evaluate whether and to what extent an increase in rates is proper at this time. We have requested and received detailed information from Consumers about the purported need for the rate increase. We have already begun that review by issuing questions to Consumers, seeking to discover detailed information regarding the proposed rate and tariff changes and requesting that Consumers justify its expenses and provide evidence to support its calculations.

We are in the process of analyzing the data received from Consumers. Our consultants will offer testimony regarding various portions of this proposal to increase your rates. We can state at this time that we have some serious concerns regarding the requested increase. We are focusing especially on these critical issues:

  • Whether the data supporting the proposed rate increase is complete, consistent and accurate;
  • Whether or not the Company’s request is consistent with the law and the Board of Public Utilities policies and regulations;
  • Whether or not the Company’s proposal will allow the utility to provide safe, adequate and proper service at the lowest possible price;
  • Whether or not the Company will be treating all of its customers consistently and fairly.

We expect to question Consumers’ representatives about these concerns and to raise them at any settlement meetings. At the present time, evidentiary hearings are scheduled for May 24, 25 and 26, 2004. At the evidentiary hearings we will cross-examine any witnesses that the Company might present, and submit expert testimony in support of our own recommendations. However, it is important that you are aware that the ultimate decision regarding this requested increase will be made by the Board.

The purpose of this public hearing this evening is for you, the customer, to voice your opinion, relate your experiences and offer comments about Consumers rates and any service problems you may be experiencing. It is important that you express your views, as they become part of the record on which the Administrative Law Judge and BPU make their decisions. The Ratepayer Advocate also wants to hear your views. We strongly encourage your participation, which will help us evaluate the Company's proposal and prepare for the hearings.

This hearing is being transcribed and your comments will become part of the record. Judge Wells will instruct you to give your name and address before you speak. Please also be sure you put your name and address on the sign in sheets I have placed in the back of the room. I would like to reiterate the importance of this so that there will be a clear record of your concerns and interests.

On behalf of the Ratepayer Advocate, I would like to thank you for attending this public hearing.

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New Jersey Division Of The Ratepayer Advocate
31 Clinton Street 11th Fl.
Newark, NJ 07101