A new coalition of consumer and industrial organizations is urging New Jersey officials to examine $8 billion in rate increases sought by the state's three biggest utility companies.

 

Representatives of AARP, New Jersey Citizen Action, and the Chemistry Council are among the groups uniting as the New Jersey Coalition for Affordable Power.

They're calling for lawmakers and regulators to consider the impact of the proposed increases.

Steven Goldenberg, an attorney who represents large energy users, said the proposals are unfriendly to ratepayers.

"Whether it's a business that has high bills that makes it less competitive, that requires it to fire employees or to relocate to other states, or people who have to chose between paying a utility bill or buying medicine, we're all affected by this," he said.

Higher utility costs pose concerns for seniors who live on fixed incomes, added Marilyn Askin, the former president of AARP of New Jersey.

"We would ask that they dip into corporate profits and to maybe make their shareholders not receive as much in dividends than to look at us, the bill payers, as AMT machines," she said.

The higher rates are needed to upgrade utility infrastructure following recent storms including Sandy, said Mike Jennings, a spokesman for Public Service Electric and Gas.