Gov. Chris Christie wants utility companies held accountable for their response to emergencies like Tropical Storm Irene.
The Reliability, Preparedness, and Storm Response Act of 2012 would empower state regulators to levy hefty fines against utility companies who don't follow their own response regulations.
The legislation raises potential administrative penalties against companies from $100 to $25,000 per daily assessment. Companies would be barred from passing any fines onto customers, Christie said in a statement.
The announcement comes on the heels of a report released Wednesday by the Board of Public Utilities (BPU). The BPU investigated several New Jersey Utility Provides to determine how they responded during recent emergencies, including Tropical Storm Irene and the severe snowstorm in October.
The bill requires utility companies to provide detailed service delivery and communications plans to the BPU. Companies that fail to adequately follow their own plans will face a $25,000 a penalty per day. Companies could be fined a maximum of $2 million.
“Hurricane Irene and then the October snowstorm posed some serious, unprecedented challenges for our utility providers,” Christie said “While those storms brought out the real professionalism of so many of the employees of the public utilities, they also exposed the vulnerabilities of our utility infrastructure and avoidable mistakes, including the ability to communicate accurate, dependable and timely information to customers and local authorities.”
Christie said the legislation provides a protection for customers by allowing accountability and oversight from the BPU and providing higher standards for preparedness and reliability before large events such as a hurricane.
State Senators Kevin O'Toole (District 40) and Joe Pennacchio submitted the bill to the Office of Legislative Services Wednesday. It is scheduled to be introduced to the Senate and assigned a bill number on Thursday.