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Isaias. Quinn. Riley. Sandy. Irene. How many chances will it take for JCP&L and their parent company First Energy to do right and fix its poorly maintained distribution system that plagues 99 percent of the power outages in its service territory, affecting 1.1 million New Jersey customers?

Non-profit citizens advocacy groups RAGE (Residents Against Giant Electric) and its offshoot CHARGE (Citizens Help Affect Regulation of Gas & Electric), have petitioned the NJ Board of Public Utilities, Governor Phil Murphy and state legislators to revoke the company’s monopoly franchise, which guarantees a return on equity, regardless of its poor performance. In fact, the groups respectfully request decision makers invite other power providers to submit a proposal for the business of keeping the power on.  This petition requests the change be made immediately.

“It’s no secret that JCP&L’s performance is regarded as abysmal by any measure – antiquated systems, poor storm preparedness, inconsistent or limited communications and lagging response time – all well-documented in the media at public hearings and voiced by mayors across many communities,” notes Kin Gee, CHARGE President. “More than ever people need power for everything from medical equipment to work connections during this pandemic, not to mention education for students.  Even with up to one billion dollars in rate increases over a decade, the public  hasn’t seen a return on their investment so the public must demand regulators find someone who will do better.”

But, Where Did the Rate Increase Money Go?

JCP&L claims it invested a billion dollars of in improving and maintaining its distribution lines, yet a rate case settled in 2015 suggests that after making some initial repairs, the extra money awarded in rate increases went to dividends at its parent company, FirstEnergy Corporation in Ohio.

What’s the Alternative to a Monopoly Franchise?

Parallel to the shareholder-driven power company, many people, including thousands in Sussex and Warren counties, receive their distributed power through a cooperative. The electric cooperatives shared ownership model, was established in the USA following World War II to provide efficient power at reasonable rates throughout rural America.  Today, electric cooperatives - owned by the customers - power communities reliably, sustainably, and affordably. Indeed, Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative is one of 900 electric cooperatives in the USA, serving 56% of the landmass in 47 states  Here is more information about how cooperatives work.

If JCP&L won’t change to address its commitment to the public, RAGE and CHARGE demand regulators explore alternatives and put the public back into public utilities. Residents can sign the petition for change.

Judy Musa

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