Is It Time For the BPU to Go? Freeholder Vicari Seeks Answer

Ocean County Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari says maybe his approach to the state Board of Public Utilities has been all wrong. “For years, I have been calling for local Ocean County representation on the BPU and nothing has come of it,” Vicari said. “Now, instead of urging for the appointment of an Ocean County commissioner, I believe we may not need the BPU at all.”

Vicari, who serves as chairman of the Ocean County Department of Consumer Affairs, has been a staunch opponent of utility companies especially in their efforts to raise rates following disasters like Superstorm Sandy.

“And yet, the BPU, the regulatory board overseeing these utilities, doesn’t seem to have a problem with rate increases while citizens remain displaced, while families are living apart, all while their homes are in disrepair,” Vicari said. “Maybe it is time to ask our citizens if the state Board of Public Utilities should be abolished. I think this should be something that is closely studied and then placed on the ballot for our citizens to determine.”

Vicari said a utility consumer advocate representing the interests of ratepayers would better serve New Jersey residents.

According to the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates, customers have saved billions of dollars in utility costs in those states that employ advocates. Working through state and federal courts and regulatory agencies, advocates have also established important consumer rights and legal precedents
“We need better representation for our consumers who seem to be at the mercy of the utility companies,” Vicari said. “We are not getting this representation from the BPU.”

Vicari, a former Dover Township mayor and a sitting freeholder since 1981, said he has long listened to the public’s complaints about ever-rising utility bills.

“Since I have been in office the process has been the same,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if Republicans or Democrats are in power. A utility goes before the BPU for an often-outlandish rate increase and the board grants it.”

Vicari pointed to the recent 12 percent rate hike awarded to United Water, the second increase granted to the water utility in three years.

“The people are asking where does it stop? I’ve tried to work in partnership with the BPU, I’ve fought for a spirit of cooperation, but time and time again they rule in favor of the big utilities and against our residents who are stuck paying the higher bill. It has to end,” Vicari said.

Vicari said he hopes his call to replace the BPU with a consumer advocate will draw more attention to the BPU’s shortcomings.

“The BPU isn’t working,” he said. “People need a better choice.” [TLS]

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  1. They have been in the UTILITIY Company’s pockets for years, abolish them save money. Everyone don’t pay their bill for 2 months that will sure get their attention real quick.

  2. The BPU does not adequately represent ratepayers. I agree with Freeholder Vicari. The BPU should be replaced with a an office of the Ratepayers Advocate, that could/would work on the behalf of ratepayers.

    Enough of this pandering to the regulated utilities.

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