Welcome to CHARGE
CHARGE -- Consumers Helping Affect Regulation of Gas & Electric -- is a citizen group formed to be the voice of New Jersey's 3+ million individual and small business energy consumers.
DID YOU KNOW?
According to the US Energy Information Administration: "New Jersey's average electricity prices are typically among the 10 highest of the 50 states."
Despite this, JCP&L's performance and reliability ranked in the bottom half.
Transmission rates for PSE&G increased by more than 400% since 2010.
Out-of-state utility workers helping with storm responses in NJ commented that our electrical grid system is outdated and antiquated.
IN THE NEWS
Morris County Freeholder Calls for CEO of FirstEnergy to Resign
August 10, 2020 - In case you missed it, Monmouth County residents are not alone with their anger regarding JCP&L’s responses to power outages.
In JCP&L’s northern territory, Morris County Freeholder Tayfun Selen is highly critical of JCP&L and asked the CEO of FirstEnergy, JCP&L’s corporate parent, to resign.
Here's the link to Freeholder Selen’s video message:
It’s Time to Rethink Public Utilities!
August 9, 2020 - More than 1.4 million homes and businesses experienced a power outage in the wake of tropical storm Isaias. In particular, more than 50% of JCP&L’s 1.1 million customers lost power.
New Jersey and much of our nation operate under a business model whereby an essential public service (electrical power) is provided by for-profit companies that were granted a franchise to operate as a monopoly. This model has an inherent conflict of interest that benefits management and shareholders at the expense of captive customers who cannot switch their utility company.
Past responses and measures have not shown to be effective. It is time for our New Jersey lawmakers to rethink this critical issue. Clearly, a paradigm shift is needed!
A good first step is to consider revoking JCP&L’s franchise. In California, some towns and counties proposed a co-op to replace PG&E, the utility company held to be responsible for the wildfire that destroyed Paradise. In parts of New Jersey, electricity is provided by a co-op owned by either a township or its customers.
Keryn Newman Needs Your Help
July 27, 2020 – Keryn has been an amazing trailblazer and has continued her crusade by helping and supporting many grassroots groups opposing transmission projects across the US. She was the driving force behind the recent comments submitted by Consumer Organization Groups to FERC against the sweetening of financial incentives for transmission projects.
Unfortunately, the appointed Commissioners of FERC during Trump’s administration decided to reverse this decision and recently issued an order for the failed Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline (“PATH”) company to recollect the $12 million that has been refunded.
Keryn and Ali felt that they have no choice but to appeal this reversal in court and will probably incur more $5,000 in out-of-pocket expenses including a $500 filing fee. They started fundraising for this over the weekend.
Please donate to this very worthy cause by clicking on the GoFundMe link below - every little bit helps.
First Energy Implicated in Ohio Bribery Scandal Ohio House Speaker Arrested
July 22, 2020 – In breaking news, Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and four others were arrested yesterday and charged as part of a $60 million racketeering and bribery investigation.
According to David DeVillers, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, the bribery was quid pro quo in exchange for a $1 billion financial rescue of the two nuclear plants. Shortly after Householder became Ohio House Leader, he rolled out a new plan when previous attempts for a bailout failed in the Ohio Legislature. The Ohio legislation added a new fee paid for by electric customers in the state and directed over $150 million a year to through 2016 to the nuclear plants.
In the end, it is we, the consumers, that are paying for all this! Maybe it’s time to bring back Consumer Advocates!
Sludge From NJ Natural Gas Drilling Damages House
June 22, 2020 - Drilling for a controversial gas pipeline project caused cracks in foundation, basement wall and floor of a house in Monmouth County. In addition to allowing drilling sludge to enter the basement of the house, there was sufficient structural damage done that an inspector declared the building unsafe. Furthermore, the sludge entered into a nearby stream in Upper Freehold Township.
Now, we can see first-hand the collateral damage in the form of an unsafe home and the impact on plant and fish that lived in the stream filled with gooey muck. And this is just the start of the project!
Update - Petition Against FERC Proposed Increase in Transmission Incentives
July 2, 2020 – Yesterday was the deadline for submitting comments to the proposed increase in incentives for electric transmission projects by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”).
We submitted our comments on behalf of almost 300 individual consumers that have signed our petition. Separately, CHARGE and RAGE have added our names to comments submitted by the Consumer Organization Groups, a group of grassroots organizations that have opposed various transmission projects across the U.S.
As consumers that have paid for all these transmission projects, we are the one group that is most directly impacted by FERC’s proposed rules. It was important for us as consumers to join with others and voice our opposition. It was also very gratifying to see so many other credible groups including state regulators and consumer advocates that have also voiced their opposition to the proposed rules.
THANK YOU to all of you that have signed our petition!
CA Utility PG&E Pleads Guilty to Involuntary Manslaughter
June 17, 2020 – In an unprecedented, historic and dramatic moment, California’s largest utility company PG&E pleaded guilty to 84 felony counts of involuntary manslaughter in a California fire that totally destroyed the town of Paradise in November 2018.
The historic plead to manslaughter by PG&E is a continuing reminder for lawmakers to rethink the traditional model where for-profit utility companies are allowed to operate as a monopoly to provide essential public service (i.e., electricity) with built-in conflicts of interest against public interest should continue or not!
We Need Your Help - Petition Against FERC Proposed Increase in Transmission Incentives
June 7, 2020 – Thanks to you, we were able to stop the Williams NESE gas pipeline project.
Unfortunately, the same Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) that approved the NESE project, has now proposed to significantly increase the incentives for electric transmission investments on a nationwide basis. This is $$$ give away to transmission utility companies, all at the expense of consumers.
We need your help to stop this.
1. Please sign our petition urging FERC to not adopt the proposal.
2. Then share with your friends and associates.
BREAKING NEWS - New Jersey Denies NESE Raritan Bay Gas Pipeline
May 16, 2020 – Yesterday, we announced that the New York Department of Environmental Conservation denied the required Water Quality Certification for the NESE Raritan Bay gas pipeline project.
Now, in the equally amazing news, we learned that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has also DENIED the permit applications!!!
THANK YOU, Governor Murphy and the NJ DEP, for protecting the environment and New Jersey residents against this harmful and unnecessary project!
Breaking News - NJ DEP Rejects Raritan Bay Gas Pipeline
June 6, 2019 – New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection rejected key permits for the Williams NESE Raritan Bay gas pipeline.
In an ABC news article, Wayne Parry, Associated Press, wrote (see link below):
"Alternatives that further avoid or minimize impacts to freshwater wetlands and riparian areas may be available and require further analysis," the department said in a statement issued after 9 p.m.
It determined that the company has not demonstrated a compelling public need for a compressor station that would be used as part of the pipeline, nor did it prove an "extraordinary hardship" exists that would justify building the project as originally proposed.
"The proposed dredging could adversely impact surface water quality within New Jersey waters of the Raritan Bay," the DEP said, adding that the company needs to demonstrate steps it would take to minimize disruption to the bay and ensure compliance with water quality standards.
The permits were not denied with prejudice. This means that Williams can reapply its applications.
For now, let’s all savor this moment.
Thank you to Governor Phil Murphy and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection for doing the right thing!
JCP&L Agrees to Settle Reliability Plus Petition
April 24, 2019 – With much fanfare that included presentations to various elected officials and a local Holmdel Township meeting, JCP&L announced an ambitious 4-year $387 million improvements to the local distribution system in July 2018. Upon closer examination, it appears that much of of the proposed investments were for normal, routine maintenance and basic upkeep of the distribution system that should be performed by JCP&L when it was granted a franchise as a public utility. CHARGE spoke out against the proposed last November at the NJ Board of Public Utilities (“BPU) public hearing in Freehold. See link below for the text of our public comments.
On Tuesday, April 23rd, JCP&L announced that, as part of a settlement agreement with the NJ Division of Rate Counsel (“Rate Counsel”) and the NJ Large Energy Users Coalition (both are intervenors in the case), it has agreed to reduce the proposed investment from $387 million to $97 million.
Is Williams Pipeline Project a Money Grab?
Will Raritan Bay be Collateral Damage?
March 26, 2019 - 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.
Citizens group Residents Against Giant Electric (“RAGE”) and Consumers Helping Affect Regulation of Gas & Electric (“CHARGE”) join Clean Ocean Action and other environmental groups in the opposition of this project.
Please sign our petition opposing the Williams NESE pipeline project:
Stacking the Deck?
UPDATE - On Monday, March 18, 2019, Governor Murphy conditionally vetoed Bill A3096/S2129!
The Governor indicated that he would sign the bill if the extremely limiting conditions that will severely restrict competition in the bidding process are removed and allow the Board of Public Utiliites to properly select the best candidate for the job in an open competitive bidding process.
Thank you, Governor Murphy, for doing what is right!
Thank you to everybody for all your support.
Feb. 20, 2019 - 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?
Jan. 30, 2019 - California’s PG&E Corp., the largest power provider in the U.S., garnered a lot of attention when it officially filed for bankruptcy yesterday. Critics of the bankruptcy include activist hedge fund shareholder Blue Mountain Capital and famed environmental crusader Erin Brockovich, who had joined the legal team representing more than 1,500 North Bay residents suing PG&E over wildfires that occurred in 2017.
However, what may be lost among all the headlines is a filing by PG&E last week that seems to be flying under the radar. Back on Jan. 9th, a US District Court Judge ordered PG&E to inspect its energy grid and clear trees that could fall into its power lines. In the court filing on Jan. 24, 2019, PG&E said that it can’t afford to perform the work ordered by the judge claiming that the work would cost between $75 billion and $150 billion.
PG&E claimed that the work is so labor-intensive and costly that compliance is technically and operationally infeasible. Furthermore, PG&E would need to substantially increase the rates to ratepayers by more than five times current rates.
This is a public admission of a dirty secret that most utility customers are not aware of.
CHARGE Opposes JCP&L Reliability Plus Petition
November 14, 2018 – In July of this year, JCP&L filed a petition for a 4-year, $387 million investments to the local distribution system. Many JCP&L customers know that CHARGE have been advocating for JCP&L to fix and properly maintain the local distribution system, the source of 99% of power outages.
Despite this, at yesterday’s New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (“BPU”) public hearing in Freehold, CHARGE core group leaders Kin Gee and Rachael Kanapka spoke out and expressed concerns about the proposed plan.
Why? Click on link below to read more.
Congratulations to Monmouth County citizens group RAGE - Residents Against Giant Electric!
On Friday, June 22, 2018, the Commissioners of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities voted unanimously to adopt an administrative law judge's decision and denied JCP&L's petition for the 10-mile long 230kV transmission line proposal ("Monmouth County Reliability Project").
Sometimes, the good guys win!
BPU Storm Response Report
July 25, 2018 – In the wake of a huge public outcry after the March 2018 Winter Storms Quinn and Riley, Governor Phil Murphy ordered the NJ Board of Public Utilities to investigate storm responses by utility companies. The BPU held 5 public hearings, solicited written comments and directed its staff to conduct an investigation. At the BPU Board meeting that I attended today, a considerable amount of time was spent on the 76-page report that was officially released today including the recommendations. The Board voted unanimously to accept the findings of the report and this report was officially released by Governor Murphy.
CHARGE Mission Statement
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.
For decades, the electrical grid model has been based on remote power generation, transmitted through long distances using high voltage transmission lines and then distributed to end users. This business model relies extensively on power generation using fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas. This outdated model is further perpetuated by financial incentives available under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 leading to large projects that seem to only benefit utility companies at the expense of consumers and the environment. In the past 10+ years, advances in technology have made renewable energy much more competitive while being environmentally friendly. Specifically, the use of renewable distributed energy generation and demand response practices are proving to be viable alternatives to the traditional electric grid model.
Under the overarching umbrella as an energy consumer advocate, CHARGE will also support public policies to help promote consumer and environmentally friendly planning and siting for renewable energy initiatives.
WHO WE ARE AND WHAT WE DO
Frustrated by power outages from the winter storm and egregious bills being pushed through by utility companies, CHARGE was formed in 2018 to be the voice for New Jersey's 3+ million electric & gas customers. The individual residential and small energy customers have been underrepresented in public policy discussions, the legislative process, and regulation of the energy sector. CHARGE is a non-profit organization dedicated to being a public energy consumer advocate. We depend on the generosity of our members and sponsors.