N.J. utilities get F on communication after Sandy outages

    The New Jersey Senate Budget Committee held a hearing at the Statehouse Wednesday to examine how the state’s utility companies responded to Hurricane Sandy.

    About 3 million customers in New Jersey lost power because of the storm, and it took almost two weeks to restore their electric service.

    The head of New Jersey’s Board of Public Utilities was succinct in his evaluation. He gave power companies a grade of F for how they how well they kept customers informed after Hurricane Sandy.

    BPU president Bob Hanna says utility company representatives didn’t have any information on how long it would take for customers to get their power back or else gave out misinformation.

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    State Sen. Kevin O’Toole questioned JCP&L President Donald Lynch about the company’s performance.

    “You’re telling me with hindsight 20/20 that JCP&L dedicated enough time, and money, and resource to deal with the storm?” O’Toole said.

    “What I’m saying is we can always be better,” Lynch responded. “But I am proud of the effort.”

    Lynch said the 13 days to restore service was quicker than the amount of time it took after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

    In some cases the utilities didn’t know which customers had their electricity restored.

    The installation of smart meters would give them that data, but Ratepayer Advocate Stefanie Brand questions whether the billion dollars it would cost is worth it.

    “If we have a billion dollars to spend, I’m not sure that’s the best way to spend it,” said Brand. “I would rather see it spent on redundancy, on securing substations, and things like that.”

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