New Jersey Natural Gas is asking state utilities regulators to approve a 7.5-percent increase in distribution charges, which would boost the average customer’s monthly bill by $11.35 a month, the Asbury Park Press is reporting.


It’s the first time the Wall Township-based company has asked for an increase in delivery fees in 14 years, the paper’s David Willis reports.

From the story:

The rate proposal, filed today with the state Board of Public Utilities, could take as long as a year to wind through the regulatory process, so any increase would not affect this winter’s heating season.

Now, the good news: In a separate filing, the utility notified regulators that it would
dole out a one-time refund next month, which for a typical residential customer will amount to about $70, because it spent less on natural gas costs.

In contrast, the reason for the requested rate hike is that costs to operate the system have risen, the utility said.

Since the last so-called base rate increase, New Jersey Natural Gas, the utility that
serves most of Monmouth and Ocean counties, has added more than 1,500 miles of new gas mains, installed more than 132,000 new connections and added 157,000 new customers.

Meanwhile, operating expenses have increased, including a 160 percent spike in employee health-care costs and a 125 percent increase in the price of steel pipe necessary to upgrade the system, the utility reported.

The company has cut expenses, including refinancing its debt to a lower rate, which mitigated the need for an earlier rate hike, the company said.

“There comes a time where the rates that are being charged don’t reflect the cost of
constructing and operating and maintaining the system,” said Mark Sperduto, vice president of regulatory affairs. “To keep the system in a reliable manner, we can’t ignore the fact that our rates don’t reflect the cost to serve customers.”

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