Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Foes of Power Grid Plan Can Keep Up Legal Fight

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Foes of Power Grid Plan Can Keep Up Legal Fight

Article excerpt

A coalition of New Jersey businesses can keep fighting, in legal proceedings, Public Service Electric and Gas Co.'s multibillion- dollar plan to improve its power grid to avert the kind of storm damage that caused outages throughout the state for up to two weeks.

An order from the state Board of Public Utilities upheld the legal status of the New Jersey Large Energy Users Coalition as an opponent of a $3.9 billion plan, denying a request by PSE&G to have the group removed from the case.

Newark-based PSE&G had asked the BPU to reverse its decision to let the coalition testify and file documents in the so-called Energy Strong case. The company had claimed that the group was not directly affected by the proposal and had refused to provide a list of its members or how they would be affected by the plan.

"We are very pleased," Steve Goldenberg, a lawyer for the coalition, said Thursday. "The BPU got it right because the information that PSE&G sought was both harassing to PSE&G customers and completely irrelevant to the issues in the case."

While PSE&G's Energy Strong plan has drawn praise from municipalities, hospitals and some business groups, the coalition opposes it largely on the grounds that it circumvents the normal process for utilities to make improvements and later seek reimbursement for the costs through utility rate increases. PSE&G's plan, under review by the BPU, would have ratepayers fund the work as it proceeds.

PSE&G spokeswoman Kristine Lloyd said the company was "disappointed," but would not appeal the ruling.

The company's 10-year plan calls for raising or otherwise flood- proofing power transfer stations, burying some power lines, upgrading gas mains, and modernizing computer systems to help repair crews identify problems and better inform customers about repairs during outages.

The company says the plan would raise the average residential electric bill by 4.5 percent and gas bill by 5.4 percent over five years, but has stressed that increases would be largely offset by the expiration of special surcharges currently on bills. PSE&G serves 2.2 million customers throughout northern and central New Jersey, including 600,000 in Bergen and Passaic counties. …

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