In the Matter of the Application of Middlesex Water Company
for Approval of an Increase in its Rates for Water Service
and Other Tariff Changes

BPU Docket No. WR03110900
OAL Docket No.: PUCRS 10159-2003S

Woodbridge, New Jersey
March 29, 2004
7:00 p.m.

Good evening, my name is Debra Robinson. 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 order to effectively represent the public in utility rate cases, our office uses a team of lawyers, accountants, and economists to analyze requests for rate and service changes filed by companies who provide energy, water, and telecommunications services in New Jersey.
In the present case, Middlesex Water Company, Inc. (“Middlesex”) is a public utility that collects, treats and distributes water for retail service to customers in South Plainfield, Metuchen, Carteret, Woodbridge, Edison, South Amboy and portions of Clark; on a contractual basis, to the Township of Edison, the Boroughs of Highland Park and Sayreville, the Old Bridge Municipal Utilities Authority; and on a special contract basis for water treatment and pumping services, to the Township of East Brunswick. The Company also owns and operates water treatment supply, transmission and distribution systems for these purposes.

On November 5, 2003, Middlesex 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 17.82% or approximately $8 million in annual revenues. Rates are proposed to become effective on August 15, 2004. The average residential water customer consuming 20,196 gallons of water per quarter would see his or her bill increase from $76.72 to approximately $90.28, an increase of approximately $13.56 per quarter.

The Ratepayer Advocate is currently conducting a complete and thorough investigation of Middlesex’ 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 Middlesex about the purported need for the rate increase. We have already begun that review by issuing questions to Middlesex, seeking to discover detailed information regarding the proposed rate and tariff changes and requesting that Middlesex justify its expenses and provide evidence to support its calculations.

We are in the process of analyzing the data received from Middlesex. 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 Middlesex’ representatives about these concerns and to raise them at any settlement meetings. At the present time, evidentiary hearings are scheduled for April 28, 30, and May 3, 2004 at the Office of Administrative Law, 9 Quakerbridge Plaza, Trenton, NJ. 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 Middlesex 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 Miller 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.

On behalf of the Ratepayer Advocate, I would like to thank you for attending this public hearing.