Cut sought in NJ surcharge on utility bills

New Jersey regulators are being urged to reduce a surcharge on gas and electric bills.

New Jersey’s Large Energy Users Coalition claims the state collects more funds from ratepayers with the “societal benefit” charge on utility bills than it spends on clean energy projects and programs to help low-income customers.

The excess money collected from the surcharge should not be used to plug holes in the state budget, said Hal Bozarth, director of the Chemistry Council of New Jersey.

“Our position is it ought to be returned to ratepayers since we pay the seventh-highest rates already in the country,” he said Wednesday. “That kind of energy cost is a severe disincentive on manufacturers and large businesses to reinvest here in New Jersey.”

The coalition is pressing the state Board of Public Utilities to cut the surcharge by $100 million annually to provide relief for companies and households.

The director of the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel, which represents the interests of consumers, said the surcharge should be used only for designated programs — and excess funds should not be diverted to the state’s general fund.

“Some of these programs are very good, they’re very important, and we don’t want to see them go away,” said Stefanie Brand. “But we also don’t want to see us paying for things that aren’t ultimately being spent.”

She says the surcharge for ratepayers should be limited to the amount needed for the intended energy programs.

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