N.J. lawmaker wants utilities better prepared to handle storm-driven outages

Tree branches and cars are tree branches are covered by heavy snow during a snowstorm last month in Jersey City, N.J. A Garden State lawmakers wants to make sure utility companies are held accountable for their response to power outages from such storms. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Tree branches and cars are tree branches are covered by heavy snow during a snowstorm last month in Jersey City, N.J. A Garden State lawmakers wants to make sure utility companies are held accountable for their response to power outages from such storms. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities will hold public hearings around the state as it reviews how utility companies responded to the recent round of nor’easters.

In the meantime, a state lawmaker wants to make sure that power providers be better prepared for future storms.

Sen. Shirley Turner’s measure would establish standards for emergency preparation and restoration of service after a major power outage. Every utility in the state would be required to adhere to those standards.

“I think we have to have it in place because we’ve seen we can’t rely on the power companies to provide this service,” she said Wednesday “They’re not accountable, like they should be, because they’re only interested in making money.”

The legislation calls for utility companies to file an emergency response plan with the Board of Public Utilities. The plan would have to include procedures for deploying crews and the supplies and equipment that might be needed to restore service. The utilities would also have to explain how they communicate with customers during emergencies.

“If they don’t have to, I guess they don’t,” said Turner, D-Mercer. “And I think they just feel they have to run and provide all the resources to the highly populated areas. Those people who are in the rural areas and the lower populated areas, they’re left in the dark.”

If the legislation is enacted, utility companies failing to provide an emergency preparation and service restoration plan could be fined $10,000 per violation each day up to $1 million.

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