Consumers Helping Affect Regulation of Gas & Electric
For too long, the energy sector has been driven mostly by utility companies' agendas. The individual residential and small energy customers have been underrepresented in public policy discussions, the legislative process and the regulation of the energy sector. CHARGE was formed in 2018 to be an energy consumer advocate, representing New Jersey's 3+ million electric & gas customers. More specifically, CHARGE is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating and bringing awareness to issues such as service, reliability, health, rates or safety, all within the utilities and energy sectors from the consumers' perspective.
Started 2 petitions
Urge Gov. Murphy & NJDEP to Deny Williams NESE Pipeline Project
Is Williams Pipeline Project a Money Grab? Will Raritan Bay be Collateral Damage? For many years, Raritan Bay was polluted and contaminated from industrial discharge and runoff. Through time, remedial efforts, and lots of hard work from groups like NY/NJ Baykeeper and volunteers, the water quality has improved. In November 2016, a humpback whale was seen frolicking and feeding on bunkers in Raritan Bay. Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water and great tasting local clams are available once again, a massive fossil fuel project threatens Raritan Bay and New Jersey’s clean energy future. Even as New Jersey turns its focus towards clean, renewable solar and wind power, Williams Companies, an energy company based in Oklahoma, filed an application for a 37-mile gas pipeline project. The project starts in Pennsylvania, cuts through central New Jersey and includes 23.5 miles of pipeline in the Raritan/Lower New York Bay. For this project to proceed, it will need certain crucial permits from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (“NJDEP”) and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. Williams stated that the reason for the project - called the Northeast Supply Enhancement (“NESE”) - is to provide for natural gas needs of New York. However, studies have proven that this pretext is simply not true – there is currently an ample supply of natural gas to the area and the forecast of future demand by independent sources is flat to declining. A report released by 350.org and 350 Brooklyn this month states that the “Williams NESE Pipeline Project is completely unnecessary and would unwisely lock the State of New York into a pipeline gas market expansion that is not in the State’s best interest.” The project, however, will stir up over 1 million tons of contaminated harmful muck through dredging that include PCBs, dioxin, lead, mercury and arsenic in Raritan Bay. The project will also release thousands of gallons of drilling fluid in the Raritan Bay. Both of these two actions will harm the marine life – including endangered whales and sea turtles - and negatively impact the recreational uses of the area including diving, kayaking, boating, surfing and wildlife viewing. If approved, it will allow Williams to earn a very attractive 14% return on the unneeded and detrimental project – all at the expense of ratepayers (utility customers). In addition, it appears that the project could likely lead to an offshore liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility for purposes of export natural gas outside of the United States. The $1 billion cost for this unneeded project should not be borne by ratepayers for a purely commercial undertaking of a for-profit company operating for the benefit of its management and shareholders. In May 2018, Governor Phil Murphy signed an Executive Order directing the development of an updated Energy Master Plan for New Jersey to achieve 100% clean energy by 2050. The NESE gas pipeline project flies in the face of Governor Murphy’s energy initiatives. Equally as important, it would lock our region into 50+ years of dirty fossil fuel infrastructure and would also introduce new safety risks. For all the above reasons, we urge Governor Phil Murphy to stop this project as authorized by the Coastal Zone Management Act (“CZMA”) of 1972. We also urge the NJDEP to deny the application for the various permits for this project. Finally, we also urge the NJDEP to extend the comment period and to schedule a public hearing at a location in the Raritan Bayshore area since this area will be greatly affected by the project.
Urge Governor Murphy to veto Bill A3096/S2129.
Should NJ Laws Limit Competition? Every time we pay a utility bill, it includes a “societal benefits charge” that funds a program to assist needy, qualified customers pay their gas and electric bills. The NJ Board of Public Utilities (BPU) oversees this program and conducts a competitive bidding process to select a third-party nonprofit organization to administer the program. The nonprofit NJ Shares ran it for several years. In 2012, the NJ Comptroller Office released a scathing report about NJ Shares, questioning expenditures and flaws in its program, including $3,339 in alcohol charges at a restaurant in violation of a policy and catered affairs at NJ Devils games. Who would do something like this? Look closer at NJ Shares, a nonprofit created in 1998 by utility companies with six utility employees on its Board of Directors. Some might say NJ Shares is a utility club dressed as a nonprofit. Upon the audit’s release, the BPU put the program to bid. In the three consecutive bid processes, the BPU awarded the contract to the nonprofit Affordable Housing Alliance, which was established in 1991 to serve needy populations in NJ. All good, right? Interestingly, the NJ State Legislature passed Bill A3096/S2129 that includes new language and requires the BPU pick an administrator that must have 1) a Board comprised of not less than five utility representatives and 2) a network of over 200 partner organizations. These are two very unique and very strict requirements. In fact, out of the hundreds of nonprofit groups in New Jersey, we believe one and only one nonprofit would qualify for this job. Can you guess which one? NJ Shares. The same NJ Shares that the state comptroller wrote up for misusing public funds that were meant to help needy customers keep their heat and power on! Our utility companies and/or their associated nonprofit really reached for the stars on this one. What do you do when you can’t beat the competition? You use your lobbying power to write a law that eliminates it. And, shockingly -- so far, it’s working. Both the Senate and Assembly passed this bill. It now sits with Governor Murphy, who we strongly urge to veto it. Why? If the bill becomes law, three things happen: 1) it squashes the BPU’s authority to select the best candidate for the job, as the bill’s extremely limiting qualifications would allow one candidate, 2) the sole candidate (and, therefore, the predetermined winner) will have no reason to submit competitive pricing or maintain distribution goals, and 3) finally, the salt in the wound … with no viable competition, who’s to say what the costs to run the program would be? That “societal benefits charge” line item on your bill could very well go up, but do you have any faith that the money would go where it’s intended? We urge Governor Murphy to veto this bill. There are hundreds of nonprofits on state contracts that want to have faith in an open and fair system. Keep the competitive bid process alive, so a truly qualified candidate can win the job - fair and square.