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STATE REGULATORS APPROVE BASE RATE INCREASE, REFUND CREDIT FOR NEW JERSEY NATURAL GAS CUSTOMERS

 STATE REGULATORS APPROVE BASE RATE INCREASE,
 REFUND CREDIT FOR NEW JERSEY NATURAL GAS CUSTOMERS
 WALL, N.J., June 24 /PRNewswire/ -- The New Jersey Board of Regulatory Commissioners (BRC) today approved a stipulated agreement among New Jersey Natural Gas Company (NJNG), BRC staff and the Department of the Public Advocate to increase the utility's base rates by $2.2 million, or less than one percent. At the same time, regulators approved a $5 million customer refund because of the utility's lower than expected costs for natural gas from its pipeline suppliers this past winter.
 The refund will be applied as a credit to bills over the next several weeks, depending on the customer's billing cycle. The average residential heat customer will see a credit of about $13.
 "Our aggressive efforts to take advantage of a soft gas market and the lowest wellhead prices in many years were successful in helping us reduce gas costs below our original expectations," said NJNG President and Chief Executive Officer William F. Eckles. "We're pleased that we can pass these savings on to customers."
 The base rate increase, needed to cover additional operating and capital construction costs and inflation, will take effect within a few days. It increases the average monthly bill of a typical residential customer by less than $1.
 NJNG had filed for a $15.8 million, or 4.1 percent, base rate increase in August 1991 and amended the request to $14.5 million in January. Eckles said NJNG's ability to generate increased efficiencies through strict controls over operating and capital costs, coupled with recent lower interest rates, contributed to keeping the base rate increase below what had been sought originally.
 NJNG's last increase in base rates totaled $8.3 million and was approved in February 1991.
 The BRC ruling today also allows NJNG to implement a weather normalization clause and to establish a new tariff rider to recover the costs associated with its remediation of 11 former coal gasification plants. The company has already been recovering coal gas plant remediation costs through base rates.
 The weather normalization clause is a mechanism that will allow NJNG to adjust its rates upward or downward for the winter heating season beginning October 1 when total degree days from the previous October through April period vary more than one-half of one percent from the 10- year average. The provision will eliminate the earnings variability associated with weather and protect customers from wide swings in their winter heating bills, Eckles explained.
 Both of these items will be handled through separate filings that will be submitted annually by NJNG to the BRC concurrent with the utility's Levelized Gas Adjustment (LGA) petition. The LGA reflects projected gas costs for the 12 months beginning October 1 and is filed by NJNG each July.
 NJNG, the principal subsidiary of New Jersey Resources Corporation (NYSE: NJR), serves about 315,000 customers in virtually all of Monmouth and Ocean counties and parts of Morris and Middlesex counties.
 -0- 6/24/92
 /CONTACT: Glenn J. Phillips 908-938-1112 or David M. Klucsik 908-938-1114, both of New Jersey Natural Gas Company/
 (NJR) CO: New Jersey Natural Gas Company ST: New Jersey IN: UTI SU:


LR -- NY053 -- 3364 06/24/92 14:31 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Jun 24, 1992
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