“Ocean County is home to one of the largest senior citizen populations in the state. Many of our seniors are living on fixed incomes and will face a financial crisis if this enormous increase is approved,” said Commissioner Joseph H. Vicari.
Vicari, who is liaison to both the Ocean County Department of Senior Services and the Department of Consumer Affairs, said the rate hike would be a huge financial burden to senior citizens and young families alike.
“Our senior citizens saw only a 1.3-percent Social Security increase in 2021 but are now expected to pay a 25 percent hike in their gas bill, Vicari said. “I fear some of our most vulnerable residents will be left with the tragic choice of paying this increase or buying necessary food and medicine.”
The resolution calls on the state Board of Public Utilities to reject the increase.
“A 25 percent increase is uncalled for during normal times,” said Gary Quinn, Director of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners. “To ask for this large of an increase with many of our residents still facing the financial impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic is absolutely ludicrous.”
Quinn said the resolution was also forwarded to state legislators in the 9th, 10th, 12th and 30th districts as well as to Stefanie A. Brand, Director of the state Division of Rate Counsel.
New Jersey Natural Gas has said it needs the additional money to pay for infrastructure improvements, including the Southern Reliability Link transmission pipeline.
Vicari, who sent an April 8 letter opposing the rate change to BPU President Joseph L. Fiordaliso, said the pipeline and other projects should be paid for by the utility’s profits, not by ratepayers.
“Many of our residents are struggling during this ongoing crisis,” he said. “They simply cannot afford this increase.”
The BPU will likely schedule a public hearing on the increase in the coming weeks before coming to a decision.