The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) followed its ownprecedent set in early October in rulings involving three otherstate utilities by granting South Jersey Gas last week almost halfof the Levelized Gas Adjustment Clause increase it requested tomeet higher wholesale natural gas prices. The utility hadpetitioned for a 39.7% rate increase, but the board granted thecompany a 19% annual raise.

South Jersey Gas’ rate will jump from $0.78 per therm to alittle over $0.94 per therm, raising the average residentialcustomers’ total annual bill by $152.29. The new rate will takeeffect immediately upon the BPU’s signing of the order.

In similar BPU orders issued last month, Elizabethtown Gas requested a 17.3 to 30% increase, but the board only approved a 17.3% hike. Likewise, Public Service Electric and Gas Co. wanted a 24% increase, but instead received 16%. New Jersey Natural Gas received the 16% rate hike it petitioned for (see NGI, Oct. 16).

“Over the last several months energy prices nationwide rosedramatically for most major fuel sources including oil and naturalgas. This rate increase was necessary to recover the recordwholesale natural gas costs we’ve already incurred and paid for onbehalf of our customers. As soon as it is possible to reduce thisrate we will file to do so,” said Charles Biscieglia, CEO of SouthJersey Gas. “We urge our customers to join our free Equal PaymentPlan to help level the impact from month to month.”

Like the rate increase orders passed down to the otherutilities, South Jersey Gas will have the ability to raise or lowerits rates by 2% in December, and by another 2% in January. Theutility must also file with the board in early December tosubstantiate any further increases to ensure its rates reflectmarket conditions for February, March and April.

A subsidiary of South Jersey Industries, the utility serves280,000 customers in seven New Jersey counties.

Alex Steis

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