Bill Text: NJ A2615 | 2018-2019 | Regular Session | Introduced


Bill Title: Requires BPU to conduct biennial rate cases for public utilities; increases penalties for public utilities failing to comply with BPU orders.

Spectrum: Partisan Bill (Democrat 1-0)

Status: (Introduced) 2018-02-01 - Introduced, Referred to Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee [A2615 Detail]

Download: New_Jersey-2018-A2615-Introduced.html

ASSEMBLY, No. 2615

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

218th LEGISLATURE

 

INTRODUCED FEBRUARY 1, 2018

 


 

Sponsored by:

Assemblyman  WAYNE P. DEANGELO

District 14 (Mercer and Middlesex)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Requires BPU to conduct biennial rate cases for public utilities; increases penalties for public utilities failing to comply with BPU orders.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     As introduced.

  


An Act requiring BPU to conduct biennial rate cases for public utilities and increasing certain penalties, and amending R.S.48:2-21 and R.S.48:2-42.

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.    R.S.48:2-21 is amended to read as follows:

     48:2-21.  Schedule of rates.  (a) The board [may] shall require every public utility to file biennially with it complete schedules of every classification employed and of every individual or joint rate, toll, fare, or charge made, charged, or exacted by it for any product supplied or service rendered within this State, as specified in the requirement.

     Fix rates.  (b) The board may after hearing, upon notice, by order in writing:

     1.    Fix just and reasonable individual rates, joint rates, tolls, charges, or schedules thereof, as well as commutation, mileage, and other special rates which shall be imposed, observed, and followed thereafter by any public utility, whenever the board shall determine any existing rate, toll, charge, or schedule thereof, commutation, mileage, or other special rate to be unjust, unreasonable,  insufficient, or unjustly discriminatory or preferential.  In every such proceeding, the board shall complete and close the hearing within [6] six months and enter its final order within [8] eight months after the filing of the order of the board initiating such proceeding, when such proceeding is on the board's own motion; or after issue is joined through the filing of an answer to a complaint, when such proceeding is initiated by complaint.

     2.    Fix just and reasonable joint rates, which shall be charged, enforced, collected, and observed by railroads and street railroads in the carrying of freight.  Whenever the railroads or street railroads involved fail to agree upon the apportionment or division of a joint rate so established, the board may issue a supplemental order declaring the apportionment or division of the joint rate.

     Demurrage rates.  (c) The board may fix the rates or charges to be made by any corporation subject to the provisions of this chapter for the detention of a railroad car containing property transported by railroad to any point in this State or for the use of railroad tracks occupied by such car, commonly called demurrage or car service, or for both such detention and use.  Such rates and charges shall conform as nearly as possible to the rates and charges for demurrage or car service prescribed and fixed by the Interstate Commerce Commission, or successor agency, for similar service.

     Increase in rates; hearings. (d) When any public utility shall increase any existing individual rates, joint rates, tolls, charges, or schedules thereof, as well as commutation, mileage, and other special rates, or change or alter any existing classification, the board, either upon written complaint or upon its own initiative, shall have power after hearing, upon notice, by order in writing to determine whether the increase, change, or alteration is just and reasonable.  The burden of proof to show that the increase, change, or alteration is just and reasonable shall be upon the public utility making the same. The board, pending such hearing and determination, may order the suspension of the increase, change, or alteration until the board shall have approved the same, not exceeding [4] four months.  If the hearing and determination shall not have been concluded within such [4] four months, the board may during such hearing and determination order a further suspension for an additional period not exceeding [, 4] four months.  The board shall approve the increase, change, or alteration upon being satisfied that the same is just and reasonable.

     (e)   The board shall biennially, either upon written complaint or upon its own initiative, after hearing and upon notice, by order in writing, determine whether any existing individual rates, joint rates, tolls, charges, or schedules thereof, as well as commutation, mileage, and other special rates, for any product or service supplied or rendered by a public utility, are just and reasonable.  The burden of proof to show that existing individual rates, joint rates, tolls, charges, or schedules thereof, as well as commutation, mileage, and other special rates, are just and reasonable shall be upon the public utility.

(cf:  P.L.1962, c.198, s.13)

 

     2.    R.S.48:2-42 is amended to read as follows:

     48:2-42. [Any] a.  Notwithstanding the provisions of any law, rule, regulation, or board order to the contrary, any person [or], public utility, or other entity subject to the jurisdiction of the board that shall fail to comply with an order of the board [, except an order to resume service which has been discontinued,] shall be [subject to a penalty of one hundred dollars for every day during which the default continues. Any person or public utility that shall fail to comply with any order of the board directing the public utility to resume service which has been discontinued shall be subject to a penalty of two hundred and fifty dollars for every day during which such default continues. Such penalties shall be recovered in an action at law in the name of the state] liable for a civil administrative penalty not to exceed $25,000 for each violation, except that any maximum civil penalty may not exceed $2,000,000 for any related series of events. Each day during which the violation continues shall constitute an additional, separate, and distinct violation.

     b.    Any civil administrative penalty may be compromised by the board in an amount and with conditions the board deems appropriate.  In determining the amount of the penalty, or the amount agreed upon in compromise, the board shall consider: (1) the nature, circumstances, and gravity of the violation; (2) the degree of the violator's culpability; (3) any history of prior violations; (4) any good faith effort on the part of the violator in attempting to achieve compliance; and (5) any other factors the board determines to be appropriate.

     c.     Pursuit of any remedy specified in this section shall not preclude the pursuit of any other remedy.

     d.    Civil administrative penalties may be recovered, if necessary, in a summary proceeding pursuant to the "Penalty Enforcement Law of 1999," P.L.1999, c.274 (C.2A:58-10 et seq.).  The Superior Court shall have jurisdiction to enforce the provisions of the "Penalty Enforcement Law of 1999" in connection with P.L.    , c.    (C.      ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).

     e.     Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, there is hereby established in the board a nonlapsing, special revenue fund called the "Board of Public Utilities Civil Penalty Fund" into which all penalties imposed or obtained pursuant to P.L.    , c.    (C.      ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill) shall be deposited.  The moneys in the Board of Public Utilities Civil Penalty Fund shall be used for the improvement of public utility service quality and reliability.

     f.     Consistent with section 1 of P.L.1988, c.100 (C. 48:2-21.14), any civil administrative penalty imposed under P.L.    , c.    (C.      ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill)  shall not be recoverable from ratepayers.

(cf: R.S.48:2-42)

 

     3.    This act shall take effect immediately.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

     This bill requires biennial rate cases and increases certain penalties for public utilities and other entities subject to the jurisdiction of the Board of Pubic Utilities (BPU).

     The bill amends existing law to require biennial rate cases for public utilities.  Under current law, the BPU may, at its discretion, adjust rates charged by a public utility.  The bill amends current law to require the BPU to determine biennially whether public utility rates are just and reasonable.

     This bill amends existing law to increase civil penalties paid by all public utilities for violating any order of the BPU.  Under the bill, civil penalties are increased from $100 per day to $25,000 per day for each violation; however, penalties are not to exceed $2,000,000 for any series of related events. 

     The bill establishes the "Board of Public Utilities Civil Penalty Fund" in the BPU, into which all penalties collected are to be deposited.  The money in the fund is to be used to increase public utilities' service quality and reliability.  Civil penalties are not recoverable from ratepayers under the bill.

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