SEEMA M. SINGH, ESQ.
PRESENTED BY DEBRA F. ROBINSON, ESQ.
ASSISTANT DEPUTY RATEPAYER ADVOCATE
DIVISION OF THE RATEPAYER ADVOCATE
In the Matter of the Petition of South Jersey Gas Company for
Approval of Increased Base Rate Tariff Rates and Charges for Gas Service
and Other Tariff Revisions
BPU Docket No. GR03080683
OAL Docket No. PUCRL 06695-2003S
In the Matter of the Petition of South Jersey
Gas Company to Implement Certain Provisions of its Rate Unbundling Stipulation
BPU Docket No. GR00050295
OAL Docket No. PUCRL 08532-2003S
Voorhees, New Jersey
December 10, 2003
Good evening. My name is Debra Robinson, and I am an attorney representing
the New Jersey Division of the Ratepayer Advocate. Our office was created
by the New Jersey Legislature to represent ratepayers in cases such as
this where a utility seeks an increase in rates or change in services.
Increase to Base Rate and Revision of Tariff
South Jersey Gas Company (“South Jersey Gas” or the “Company”) filed a
Petition with the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (“Board” or “BPU”)
on August 29, 2003 to increase its base rates for natural gas distribution
service. The Company seeks a rate increase of $42.4 million or 8.7% overall,
and the rate increase also includes a petition to change the Company’s
depreciation rates. The last base rate increase occurred in 1996, pursuant
to a Petition filed by the Company.
According to the Company, the primary reason for the increase is greater
operating costs and a massive construction program regarding the need
for an expanded transmission and distribution infrastructure because of
continued growth within the Company’s service territory as well as system
replacement programs that are required by law.
The requested base rate change would increase a typical monthly residential
customer winter heating bill reflecting 200 therms of natural gas use
by approximately $23.15, or about 8.6%.
Implementation of Unbundling Stipulation
Pursuant to a suggestion by the Ratepayer Advocate, the aforementioned
base rate proceeding has been consolidated with a Company proposal to
implement a Capacity Allocation Charge (“CAC”). This proposal was filed
in order to establish a rate mechanism to charge customers who purchase
their natural gas commodity from other suppliers for the cost incurred
by the Company to provide back-up commodity service to these customers.
Currently, these costs are absorbed by the Company’s Basic Gas Supply
Service (“BGSS”) customers, who purchase the gas commodity as well as
the gas transportation from the Company itself.
Our office is conducting a complete investigation of the Company’s base
rate and CAC requests based upon the information that is being supplied
and updated by the Company. We have retained the services of expert consultants
to assist us in our review. The Ratepayer Advocate’s inquiry is focused
on the critical issues of whether the Company’s proposal allows ratepayers
to pay the lowest rates possible consistent with receiving safe, reliable
and proper service. The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, with legal
submissions from the parties, including the Ratepayer Advocate, and after
the Initial Decision from the Administrative Law Judge, will make the
final decision regarding the utility’s requests for adjustments to its
base rates and CAC.
The purpose of this hearing is for you, the customer, to voice your opinion,
relate your experiences and offer comments about the Company’s rates and
service. It is important that you express your views so they may become
part of the record on which the Administrative Law Judge and the Board
of Public Utilities make their decisions. The Ratepayer Advocate also
needs to hear your views. Your active participation is strongly encouraged
to help in our evaluation of the Company’s proposals and our preparations
for the evidentiary hearings.
This hearing is being transcribed and your comments will become part of
the record. I would like to reiterate the importance of your participation
so that the Ratepayer Advocate can have a clear record of your concerns
On behalf of the Ratepayer Advocate, thank you for attending tonight’s