In face of N.J.utility rate hike requests, AARP opposes bill to facilitate increases

AARP is opposing legislation that would make it easier for New Jersey utility companies to increase rates.

The group delivered petitions from thousands of residents to the office of Gov. Chris Christie Thursday. The petitions urge regulators not to deviate from the regular approval process when deciding on rate hikes sought by Public Service Electric & Gas and Jersey Central Powre & Light to upgrade the electric grid.

Pennsauken resident Lynn Ford, an AARP member, said she can barely afford to pay her gas and electric bill now.

“Well, I have my heat turned way down and it’s hard for me because I have a bad heart,” she said. “I live basically from food pantries. That’s what we eat because I can’t afford to go grocery shopping.”

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Ken Lindhorst of AARP said utility customers should pay only for projects that improve reliability, not for storm-recovery costs that could have been avoided.

“Were they negligent in where they put it? If so, we believe the shareholders ought to pay for their negligence rather than the consumers,” Lindhorst said. “Are the earning too much in terms of their rate of return? PSE&G is asking for 10.3 percent. How many of you can earn anywhere like that in this depressed economy?”

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