New Jersey legislators remain vigilant in their efforts to hold the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) responsible in the aftermath of significant storms.
Three Assembly bills (A-108, A-2454, and A-1226) passed through various Assembly committees in October, with Republicans penning one bill and Democrats at the helm for the other two.
Efforts to reform the BPU first emerged in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy eight years ago. These efforts intensified as subsequent storms took their toll on the Garden State, with Tropical Storm Isaias providing the most recent example in August 2020.
‘Storm Response Bill’
Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Christopher P. DePhillips (R-40) and Kevin Rooney (R-40) was advanced by the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee.
The bill “Storm Response Bill” would give municipalities the option to revoke a utility’s franchise if it could not provide for continuous, safe, and reliable service.
“We need to turn up the heat on these power companies by injecting some competition into the industry,” said Rooney. “Residents shouldn’t have to pay for service that continuously leaves them without heat, lights or even running water in some cases.”
Priority Restoration Provisions Advanced
A-1226, a bill which would require the BPU to adopt rules which would prioritize power restoration during extended outages, was advanced by the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee.
Among the bills sponsors are Assemblymembers Gary Schaer (D-36), Angelica Jimenez (D-32), Benjie Wimberly (D-35), Raj Mukherji (D-33) and Benson.
Hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, renal dialysis facilities, and clinical and research laboratories and institutes that store human blood would be prioritized during an extensive outage, according to the bill,. Utilities would be given enforcement discretion to maintain public safety.
Bill for BPU Standards
The Assembly Homeland Security Committee approved A-2454, a bill which would require BPU to establish a set standards regarding emergency preparation and restoration of service plans after an outage.
The legislation was sponsored by Assemblymemebers Daniel Benson (D-14), Nancy Pinkin (D-18), and Carol Murphy (D-7). Benson noted the state had seen severe power outages following storms which could last days or weeks, necessitating the establishment of the standards.
“Tropical Storm Isaias brought rain, flooding, wind gusts comparable to that of Superstorm Sandy,” said Pinkin. ‘It also left many in the region without power and the utilities scrambling to handle the emergency and help restore power. There should be a set of standards all utilities must adhere to in the event of a power outage.”