There's no definitive word yet whether Jersey's utilities will request a rate increase from the State Board of Public Utilities - to cover power restoration costs after hurricane Irene, and the freak October snow storm a couple of weeks ago that left many Garden state residents without electricity for days.

Jersey Ratepayer Advocate Stephanie Brand says there are some storm damage costs that are already worked into their bills sent out every month, "and to the extent that ratepayers have already given them money to spend on storm recovery, we don't want to pay for it twice -we want to make sure they spent the money well - that they did pay for things they shouldn't have paid for."

She says "we're also going to make sure that they only can ask for this money in the context of a rate case -where they come in and we get access to all of their books -so that if there was something else that they saved money on, maybe they wouldn't get the full amount of this."

At the same time, Brand points out if the utilities are facing cost increases themselves, "we do want them to have enough money to maintain the system , so that it doesn't start getting worse and worse every time we have a storm - but we'll be looking at it very, very carefully."

As for allegations made by some that the utilities have not done proper tree maintenance near power lines, Brand says "if that's the case, then that obviously would be a problem- they need to do their tree trimming, there are regulations on their tree trimming -however many times the utilities get resistance from the public when they try to do their tree trimming."

When Townsquare Media tried to interview representatives of PSE & G, and JCP & L for this story, both utilities refused the request, but PSE and G did issue a written statement that reads in part "PSE & G has no plans at this time to file for a rate increase to recoup the costs of these two destructive storms. Rather, we have asked that these extraordinary costs be deferred and considered the next time regular electric rates need to be reset to reflect our actual costs to provide service."

Attempts were also made to discuss the situation with BPU President Lee Solomon, but we were told he would simply not be available.