STATE OF NEW JERSEY
Division of The Ratepayer Advocate
31 Clinton Street, 11th Fl
P. O. Box 46005
Newark, New Jersey 07101
JAMES E. McGREEVEY
M. SINGH, Esq.
REMARKS OF SEEMA M. SINGH, ESQ.
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
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 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:
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.
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