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Assembly Panel Advances Stiffer Penalties for Utilities

Outrage over lengthy power outages sparks bipartisan legislation.

The Christie administration and the Legislature appear to be moving in lock step to stiffen penalties for the state’s utilities if they fail to quickly restore power and service after major storms.    

With little debate, the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee unanimously approved a bill with bipartisan backing (A-2760), which largely reflects the key points in a proposal announced by Gov. Chris Christie.

Both lawmakers and the administration are unhappy with the response by the state’s four electric utilities to two powerful storms that pummeled the state last year.

A record 1.9 million customers were left without power after Hurricane Irene made landfall in New Jersey, and another 1 million customers were left without electricity in the wake of a rare October snowstorm.

Some customers in Toms River did not have service restored for up to five days. And many customers -- especially those served by Jersey Central Power & Light, the state's second-largest utility with about 1 million customers -- were left in the dark as they received inaccurate information or no information at all about when power would be restored.

The bill, which aims to hold utilities more accountable for service outages, is sponsored by the chairman of the committee, Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula (D-Somerset).

The legislation, similar to a bill being pushed by the Republican administration, would authorize the state Board of Public Utilities to develop and enforce uniform performance benchmarks for service reliability, disruption in service, restoration of service, and emergency communications for utilities in the state.

Since being introduced by Chivukula this spring, however, the bill has been changed to reflect some of the proposals suggested by Christie, including raising the penalties for violations of the performance standards from $100 per day under the current law to $25,000 per day, with a maximum of $2 million for violations related to a particular event.

Continue reading on NJSpotlight.com.

NJ Spotlight is an issue-driven news website that provides critical insight to New Jersey’s communities and businesses. It is non-partisan, independent, policy-centered and community-minded.

Mac October 07, 2012 at 02:26 PM
I would have much less difficulty embracing this 'politically-connected attorney bonanza of taxpayer dollars' if this group of sponsors would also apply these principles to elected officials who fail to make an effort to live up to their campaign promises. After all, fair is fair and integrity is everything when leading by example.
Tom Cular October 08, 2012 at 01:44 PM
I agree with raising the penalty, $100 per day probably is less than JCP&L spend on coffee in their offices.
Joseph Herbert October 09, 2012 at 03:55 AM
And while we're at it, let's get the wire under the street so downed poles and falling trees don't effect the power at all.

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