Signatures of more than 1,500 people who want to defeat Jersey Central Power and Light's newest rate increase request will land in front of state energy regulators at tomorrow's public hearing in Freehold Township.

Shore Assembly members Caroline Casagrande and Amy Handlin rounded them up in a online petition they launched several weeks ago.

The company is asking the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities for permission to increase its rates by 4.5 percent. The justification is the inordinate expense incurred for repairs during and after Superstorm Sandy and, prior to that, Hurricane Irene. Both storms resulted in outages that lasted anywhere from a few hours to the better part of a month.

According to the lawmakers, it equates to about $85 a year for an average ratepayer. It has Assemblywoman Casagrande livid.

“After JCP&L literally left our communities in the dark and sent New Jersey ratepayers’ money to its parent company in Ohio, the utility is back with hands in our pockets,” she fumed in a prepared statement.

The company's profit margin caught the attention of New Jersey's Ratepayer Advocate, who questioned how much money is sent to First Energy's main offices as opposed to infrastructure reinvestment.

Casagrande said that the bid lacks credibility "...because JCP&L has yet to answer very serious charges of pocketing corporate profit instead of investing in the improvements that would have made our service more reliable and our rates more tolerable.”

The hearings start at 1:30 and 6:30 PM in the Freehold Township Municipal Building.