Utility Requests Large Water Rate Increase For NJ Residents

Newsday — Saturday, February 24, 2007

HACKENSACK, N.J. — United Water New Jersey is seeking a rate increase that could cost northern New Jersey residents a 28 percent hike in their bills.

The region's largest water company filed an application Friday to increase rates and give a $36 million boost to revenues. The Board of Public Utilities has nine months to make a decision on the request.

United Water, which hasn't requested a hike in 12 years, said it needs the rate increase to make up for higher energy expenses and the cost of capital improvements, the Record of Bergen County reported in Saturday's editions.

"We've continued to make major improvements to our water system in an effort to stay ahead of state and federal water-quality standards," president Bob Iacullo said in a statement. "We've also upgraded our customer-information systems to improve the level of service to our customers."

The hike would cost residents an extra $94.92 a year. It would increase quarterly water bills for typical customers $23.73 to $108.48.

New Jersey Public Advocate Ronald K. Chen said he doesn't have an opinion on the matter yet.

"This is a very large proposed rate increase that will trigger a thorough review by the Public Advocate's Division of Rate Counsel to ensure that any increases are completely justified," he said.

Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, executive director of New Jersey Citizen Action, also withheld judgment but noted the request comes at a time when consumers are paying more to heat homes. Just two weeks ago, BPU approved an increase in electricity rates, she said.

"How much more can families bear?" Salowe-Kaye said.

More than 750,000 residents in Bergen and Hudson counties are served by United Water, a subsidiary of the Suez Environment division of the Paris-based Suez Group.

Information from: The Record of Bergen County

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