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Pallone Calls on New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to Audit Misleading JCP&L Lobbying Campaign

March 28, 2017
Press Release

Long Branch, NJ – Today in a letter to Richard Mroz, President of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU), Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) requested that BPU audit JCP&L to ensure that the company is not using ratepayer funds to underwrite its lobbying campaign for Monmouth County Reliability Project (MCRP). JCP&L is currently sending flyers to residents of communities that would not be affected by the construction of the MCRP, as well as sending employees door-to-door to these neighborhoods to conduct surveys. The flyers claim that the project will increase reliability and do not disclose that construction of the project will result in rate increases for residents.

The plan for JCP&L’s new transmission line would impact Aberdeen, Hazlet and Middletown in Pallone’s district and run along New Jersey Transit’s North Jersey Coast line. Last week, Pallone asked the board to accept a motion by Monmouth County local communities to stay consideration of Jersey Central Power and Light’s (JCP&L) application to construct the MCRP.

Earlier this year, the state Rate Counsel raised questions about the necessity of the project to increase reliability in Monmouth County. The Rate Counsel described a number of technological alternatives that could increase reliability without requiring the construction of a transmission line like MCRP. Additionally, many residents have argued that the project is unnecessary and potentially harmful to the public health, environment, and economy of their communities. The plan states that poles will be up to 210 feet tall in some places, and many residents are worried that this will negatively affect their home values. Pallone testified at the January 25th public hearing on MCRP in Middletown and expressed his opposition.

Pallone has long voiced concerns with JCP&L’s proposal. In October, Pallone sent a letter to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) voicing his concerns over JCP&L’s proposal for the MCRP. In August, he shared his concerns with BPU regarding JCP&L’s proposal to transfer all of its transmission assets to Mid-Atlantic Interstate Transmission. JCP&L withdrew its transfer proposal in September, a week after Pallone’s statement.

The text of the letter is below.

 

The Honorable Richard Mroz
President
New Jersey Board of Public Utilities
44 S. Clinton Avenue
Trenton, NJ 08625

Re: Docket No. EO16080750

Dear President Mroz:

I write regarding the Monmouth County Reliability Project (MCRP), the proposed 10-mile, 230-kilovolt (kV) transmission line and substation enhancement project announced in June 2016 by Jersey Central Power and Light (JCP&L), a subsidiary of FirstEnergy. Specifically, I am requesting that the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) audit JCP&L to ensure that the company is not using ratepayer funds to underwrite its lobbying campaign.

      It has been brought to my attention that JCP&L is sending flyers to residents of communities that would not be affected by the construction of the MCRP, as well as sending employees door-to-door to these neighborhoods to conduct surveys. The flyers claim that the project will increase reliability, and asks residents to send the flyer back to JCP&L to signify their support for the project, with postage being paid by JCP&L. These materials do not disclose that construction of the $111 million project will result in rate increases for residents, but the flyer does state that information provided by residents could be shown to the Office of Administrative Law and BPU. BPU should act to ensure that ratepayer funds are not being used to further JCP&L’s agenda.

While JCP&L may argue that these communities will benefit from the construction of the MCRP through increased reliability, I remain unconvinced. Ever since this project was initially proposed, I have made it clear that I am skeptical whether the MCRP is the best and most cost-effective way to ensure reliability in Monmouth County. The state Rate Counsel has also raised concerned about the benefits of this proposal. In January, Rate Counsel testimony described technical alternatives which could improve reliability and satisfy the requirements of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation.

            Instead of spending ratepayer funds to sidestep the legitimate concerns of the communities that will be directly affected by the construction of the MCRP, JCP&L should be exploring alternatives that accomplish its reliability goals without disrupting these communities.

           

            Thank you for your consideration of my request.      

 

                                                                        Sincerely,

 

 

                               

FRANK PALLONE, JR.                                                      

Member of Congress

 

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