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Smith Measure Proposing Constitutional Amendment to Dedicate Revenues from Societal Benefits Charge to Energy Programs Clears Committee

TRENTON – A concurrent resolution sponsored by Senator Bob Smith proposing a constitutional amendment that would dedicate all moneys from the Societal Benefits Charge imposed on electric and natural gas bills to solely pay for specific energy programs was approved today by the Senate Environment and Energy Committee.

“This funding should be dedicated to the programs it was initially intended for, which is to finance clean energy programs and to help low-income families pay their utility bills, not to balance the state budget,” said Senator Smith (D-Middlesex, Somerset). “We’ve seen the diversion of funds that are intended to repair our environment and to help our most vulnerable. We cannot allow this any longer. This is a responsible way of restoring this funding to its appropriate purpose.”

If the proposed constitutional amendment is approved, all moneys collected from the Societal Benefit Charge would be dedicated solely to certain and specific energy programs and to low income families for purposes listed in the law, with the dedication phased in over five year period.

Under current New Jersey law, all revenues derived from the Societal Benefits Charge, imposed on electric and natural gas bills pursuant to the “Electric Discount and Energy Competition Act,” (EDECA) are intended to fund energy programs; energy efficiency programs; renewable energy programs; manufactured gas plant remediation; nuclear plant decommissioning; energy consumer education programs; and social programs specified in EDECA. These programs benefit residents, businesses and municipalities.

Beginning July 1, 2018, in each State fiscal year, they would be credited to a special account in the General Fund an amount equivalent to the revenue derived from the Societal Benefits Charge imposed pursuant to EDECA.  The dedication would be phased in over five years, as follows: a) for State fiscal year 2019, up to $140,000,000 of the amount credited to the special account may be appropriated by the Legislature for paying costs incurred for any purpose or purposes other than those specified; b) for State fiscal year 2020, up to $112,000,000; c) for State fiscal year 2021, up to $84,000,000; d) for State fiscal year 2022, up to $56,000,000; e) for State fiscal year 2023, up to $28,000,000. Commencing with fiscal year 2024, the full dedication would be in effect.

SCR-151 was approved by the Senate Environment and Energy Committee. It will next go to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for consideration.