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Remarks by Judith Lankau, President, Board of Directors

I'm Judy Lankau from Rockland Electric Company.

I am fortunate to represent a coalition of NJ's top energy companies and non-profit agencies, and we have some very good news for everyone in New Jersey.

Today, we are announcing the creation of New Jersey Statewide Heating Assistance and Referral for Energy Services.

Said more simply -- NJ SHARES. And I'm proud to be here as the first president of the board of directors.

NJ SHARES is as non-profit corporation that will offer financial help to individuals and families who are in need of temporary aid in paying their utility bills throughout New Jersey.

Our organization is an energy assistance fund whose grants will be aimed at non-welfare, residential customers who have exhausted all other available resources and find themselves unable to pay their energy bill.

The need for such a fund is unfortunately very real. BPU figures show that service to approximately 146,000 NJ household was shut off in 1997 due to unpaid energy bills. The existing fuel funds run by Rockland Electric, GPU, and Atlantic Electric serve only a small fraction of that number.

But through a start-up grant of $1 million from PSE&G, and a combination of both flat-grant and pro-rated contributions from the other energy providers who are members of the coalition, we hope to greatly increase the number of those we help.

Through this wedding of private profit companies and public interest organizations, we have created a program for the needy among us that we hope will stand as one of the most progressive humane and compassionate in the nation.

Those in need are always among us, but those—who through no fault of their own – become temporarily needy present us with a particularly difficult set of challenges.

NJ SHARES serves the public interest in the purest way possible – by addressing at least one of those challenges – by keeping the heat and lights on.

Between now and the fall, the Board of Directors will be busy at work getting the organization set up – hiring an executive director, seeking an administrative agency or agencies, and putting all the policy and guidelines into an appropriate format. When the 1998-99 heating season starts in September, we will be up and running and ready to accept applications for assistance.

I would like to mention someone who was very instrumental in seeing this day come. That's Blossom Peretz, the NJ Ratepayer Advocate, who had this dream of a statewide energy assistance program a couple of years back. She challenged the energy companies to find a way to make this happen, and she encouraged us to work with non-profit and community based organizations in doing so. I know she's as thrilled as we all are today, and you'll be hearing from her later on.

Now I'd like to introduce Al Koeppe, Senior VP of External Affairs and Corporate Services for PSE&G.

(Following remarks by Mr. Koeppe and others:)

Before we take your questions, there are some people here who made this day possible, and I would like to recognize them. As you might imagine, the process was not an easy one – there were many different players – many different view points – many different ideas on what should or shouldn't be done – and many obstacles to overcome. But the first ever board of directors were the same folks who worked hand-in-hand, face-to-fact to reach a consensus and move forward to mold and shape an organization that everyone could—and wanted to – support. I'd like to introduce: Vic Viscomi from PSE&G; Sheila Coleman from Elizabethtown Gas; Brenda Beavers from the Salvation Army; Jim Dieterle from the Association for Children of New Jersey; Bonnie Bornstein from South Jersey Gas; Wanda Lawson from CAPEDA; Nancy Haynes from AARP; and Michael Swayze from the NJ Low Income Energy Network. Unable to join us today are Harold Garwin from the Community Health Law Project, Darlene Horten from GPU Energy, and Fern Mills from Atlantic Energy. Also invaluable to the process and now profession advisors to the Board are David Carroll of Response Analysis, Robert Allison our CPA, and Richard Trenk, our attorney. It was the vision of these individuals – and their commitment to making that vision a reality that allows all of us to be here today.

Now, let's have your questions.


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