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Utility Companies Accountable Under Proposed Bill

State Sen. Kevin O'Toole wants PSE&G, JCP&L and others to improve response times during emergency situations.

A North Jersey state senator is proposing legislation to cut down on the long lines at gas stations and ensure the safety of residents during emergencies.

State Sen. Kevin O’Toole (R-Cedar Grove) is co-sponsoring the New Jersey Residents Power Protection Act. The legislation would hold utility companies accountable for their response times during emergencies. It would also require gas stations and other facilities to have generators on hand to ensure residents have access to power and gasoline during emergencies situations.

“It was apocalyptic in North Jersey in the days following Hurricane Sandy,” O’Toole said. “Sometimes, there was no evidence of any activity by the power companies at all.”

O’Toole spoke regularly with several North Jersey mayors, including Chris Vergano of Wayne and Paul Aronsohn of Ridgewood, about the lack of progress PSE&G, JCP&L and Orange and Rockland were making in restoring power to hundreds of thousands of North Jersey residents.

“He personally assisted the township in finding fuel supplies to keep the township in business so our Department of Public Works and fire trucks could respond to residents during the storm,” Wyckoff Mayor Chris DePhillips said. “He also worked hand-in-hand with me to apply strong pressure on both PSE&G and Orange & Rockland to get the necessary restoration crews into Wyckoff.”

PSE&G cut the power to the only overnight shelter in Ridgewood for eight hours Nov. 4.

Several mayors, including Vergano, and Aronsohn, publically criticized the power companies for their lack of preparedness and response to Sandy.

The RPPA would require assisted living facilities, firehouses and gas stations, among other facilities, to have emergency generators running during power outages.

New grocery stores, including smaller ones like Quick Chek, would be required to install a generator on their property. Small businesses could apply for a tax deduction for installing a generator.

“This will help utility companies in restoring power and clearing roadways with the relief that the critical need facilities are operating,” O’Toole said. “Vendors were delivering fuel to towns so their emergency vehicles could be fueled.”

The RPPA would require the state Board of Public Utilities to develop and enforce performance benchmarks for power companies.

Companies would be required to file a service reliability plan and an emergency communications strategic plan.

The bill would increase the civil penalties utility companies would pay for violating rules enforced by the BPU.

Penalties would increase from $100 a day to $25,000 for each violation up to $2 million. Penalties would go into a special fund. The BPU would use the funds to increase service quality and reliability.

Cracking Down on Price Gouging, Scam Artists

O’Toole is also sponsoring proposed legislation that would increase the penalty for burglary in a municipality where a state of emergency has been declared. The charge would be upgraded from a third-degree to a second-degree offense.

The legislation could be expanded to include trespassing and theft by deception to curb price gouging by gas stations. Two Newark gas stations were accused of price gouging in the aftermath of Sandy.

If expanded, the legislation would help stop illicit contractors from attempting to scam residents out of their money. These scam artists go door-to-door promising residents to fix their damaged homes. Once they receive their deposits they leave and don’t perform the work.

That bill is still being drafted and has not been introduced yet.

I am Spartacus November 15, 2012 at 08:08 PM
Yes. They are allowed to pass along their costs for the cleanup just as they can pass along any other costs. Costs go up, rates generally go up. But they can't raise rates just because they feel like it.
Tammy November 15, 2012 at 08:11 PM
I find it ridiculous that they are considering increasing penalties. Does anybody think the money is going to come out of some CEO's pocket? No, it will come out of our pockets because they will just raise the rates to cover the cost of the penalties. I would suggest that the power company executives homes not have their power restored until everybody else's is restored but that's really not fair to their family members. I don't think there is really anything we can do to get them to improve their service.
Scondo November 15, 2012 at 08:55 PM
We can give everyone a back up generator cheaper than we can bury lines,
Flood Plain November 15, 2012 at 10:19 PM
Reply to tryclyde: YES! It is well known that when nature causes natural disasters, creature comforts will not be restored instantly. Be accountable for yourself for short run issues that might bother you a great deal.
Joe videodummy November 16, 2012 at 12:02 AM
Smart Grid Technology using transistors and capacitors will replace the antiquated pole and wire systems one day. Think of it as WiFi Electric. Not bad when you consider PSE &G produces roughly 5 million pounds of toxic chemicals that include manganese chromium, nickel componds, sulfuric and hydrochloric acid annually- something the EPA doesn't want anyone to know about.
Jacqueline Pisatowski November 16, 2012 at 01:19 AM
What Joanie, Joe and I are asking for right now is an attorney that is willing to petition the state to revoke JCP&L's Wayne franchise. Were Senator Otoole and Scott Rumana responding to allegations of unethical practice while the people of the 40th District needed them? The pandering politicians may have been preoccupied with saving their tails rather than paying attention to the lack of response JCP&L routinely demonstrates. Rumana and Otoole are attorneys - let's see if they sue JCP&L for our economic loss. Let's see if they file a petition with the BPU to revoke JCP&L's franchise. Are the campaign contributions more important than the people?
Jacqueline Pisatowski November 16, 2012 at 02:39 PM
Rumana and Otoole are lawyers why haven't they filed a class action law suit to revoke the Wayne Franchise of JCP& L and compensate JCP&L's customers for their economic loss? If the JCP&L stockholders had to compensate the aggrieved customers for lost food, lost work, temporary shelters...then the almighty dollar would help assure JCP&L's customers get appropriate level of emergency response. Let’s see if the politicians we pay to represent sincerely want to protect us!
Mike S November 16, 2012 at 03:30 PM
@Jacqueline Pisatowski, You, Joanie and Bubba Jr went out to "check on your neighbors" bc as you said you are considering running for office next year. Now THAT'S the definition of pandering! Before saying they weren't around to help, did you try calling them? I did, and they were immediately on the phone with JCP&L to find out when JCP&L would come to my neighborhood and get my power on. You go pander to your neighbors for votes, and I'll talk to those who can actually do something to help!
Mike S November 16, 2012 at 03:35 PM
@Jacqueline Pisatowski, You, Joanie and Bubba Jr went out to "check on your neighbors" bc as you said you are considering running for office next year. Now THAT'S the definition of pandering! Before saying they weren't around to help, did you try calling them? I did, and they were immediately on the phone with JCP&L to find out when JCP&L would come to my neighborhood and get my power on. You go pander to your neighbors for votes, and I'll talk to those who can actually do something to help!
Acton November 16, 2012 at 03:48 PM
Trim or remove all trees near power lines that pose substantial risk near the height of power lines. Why should a power company bear all the risk of what is on your property that poses a threat to its lines and to the community? Trees are wonderful, beautiful, and part of the character of the community, but there must be limits when the risks are so great. Upgrade and reinforce power lines and utility poles.
Z Jones November 16, 2012 at 03:50 PM
Hey Jacqueline, Joanie, and Joe, Why doesn't Joe Bubba use his power at the BPU to get rid of JCP&L from Wayne? Or did he quit becasue he didn't get the Chief of Staff job? Instead of canvassing for votes during a crisis, did you think about volunteering to help your neighbors by standing in line for 3 hours with a canister to get fuel for their generators? I did. You probably didn't since that requires real effort. Oh and Jacqueline- legislators can't file a class action lawsuit against YOUR utility company, ONLY you and the town can. Before you file your petitions to run for office, get the facts and learn the law. Might help with getting votes, after you're done going door-to-door with Joanie and Joe Bubba.
janyne di biase November 16, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Also, diseased trees need to be replaced/trimmed (if possible).
Jack Q November 16, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Well stated @Z and @MIke S. The faux outrage is unbelievable. And Jackie, why don't you get Kristen Corrado to sue for you? She is still a "Strong" political ally of the Bubba's and the Murphy's, isn't she?
Nose Wayne November 16, 2012 at 05:48 PM
Florida has concrete telephone poles that are hurricane proof, not saying do every pole but the high voltage wire poles should be done.
Jacqueline Pisatowski November 16, 2012 at 06:08 PM
Dear: Z Jones, Jack Q and Mike S or is it Tom Buckley, Scott Rumana and Kevin Otoole? You should consider helping your neighbors find a lawyer to help lead the charge. Our volunteer staff did the leg work and now the residents of Wayne need an attorney to file a petition. All our volunteers have jobs. and also find time to be community servants without any elaborate titles or pay. Perhaps you and JCP&L cannot understand that we do not quit. JCP&L needs to be held accountable. Ask Scott Rumana about leaning what a legislator can and cannot do. He may reply that he learned the hard way!
chatham98 November 16, 2012 at 06:14 PM
All things considered - things turned out for MOST people ok. The power companies did a heck of a job and misery has been held to a minimum. JCP&L and the teams they brought in (the guys on in my area were from Iowa) did a super job and I thank them very much. Could things have been done better and more efficiently? Yes, but planning for this event was poor by nearly everyone because no one expected the extent of the storm. I see way too much negative and emotional criticism on the blog here to help much in planning for the future and any similar events. I also see way too many "what about me" sort of comments. Do you really want to rely on political or municipal resources to survive a storm? You might as well expect to win the powerball! Paying more for such services in the future is no better than buying a power ball ticket - practically the same odds of winning whether I buy a ticket or not and a waste of your money or, at best, an entertainment expense. It is probably impossible if not cost prohibitive to maintain such a disaster ready system. Come on - this sort of pain once or twice every 100 years - not bad. Stuff happens you know.
Jacqueline Pisatowski November 16, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Mike S: If they were immediately on the phone with JCP&L are we learning about the benign affect they have as our State Representatives? After 1 day, 5 days, 9 days, 12 days were they still on hold? We need an electrical supplier that has an adequate emergency response capability. If our Legislators were concerned they could have spent a full year working with JCP&L. They knew last year adjustments had to be made. Why don't you stop criticizing volunteers and join our effort to solve the problem?
Robert Pignatello November 16, 2012 at 06:38 PM
It's too bad this is becoming the vehicle for political axes to be ground over an important life and safety issue. Seems to me that the work we should have done last year - after many of us lost power for more than a week - needs to be done this time without fail because while some may have written off last year as a once in a lifetime event, clearly that was wrong. In between the political rhetoric I've seen here there have been some useful ideas and thoughtful comments. But, Like too many issues I've seen addressed in Wayne, they get overshadowed and unduly influenced by the political posturing and motivations of political parties. What we desperately need in this town is a non partisan government that puts the people's interests and real solutions to real problems first and foremost above political party interests. If the people of Wayne want it enough it can happen.
Jacqueline Pisatowski November 16, 2012 at 06:47 PM
You called our State Legislators and they immediately called JCP&L for us? After the first day, 4th day, 7th day, 10th day 12th day were they still on hold? Have you helped explain the lack of respect JCP&L has for us or the benign nature of our State Legislators? Please help our movement to hold JCP&L accountable rather than attacking volunteers.
Jack Q November 16, 2012 at 06:51 PM
I agree Robert. The pandering by the Communications director of the Wayne Republican Party of the People is outrageous. While she says O'Toole is looking for votes, she is doing the same under the guise of a community organizer. It took the mayor to have to go to JCPL HQ to get things done in town. But the BPU is responsible for overseeing the utilities and they are also culpable. Personally, I think it is a disgrace that it took so long. It seemed that the biggest issue was tree removal around town, which should have been the easiest. You don't need bucket trucks to determine if lines are dead. Roads were blocked as well. It is astounding that in this great country, a town can be as crippled as it was and the utilities failed as they did. Everyone should sign the petition as a start, but heads must also roll at the BPU.
Jacqueline Pisatowski November 16, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Jack Q, I forgive you for attacking our volunteers. Perhaps you were blinded by your loyalty to those that enabled JCP&L. Why don't you now something constructive to help us solve this power problem?.
Cj November 16, 2012 at 07:36 PM
I do think gas stations should have generators. How about the refinerys. Why were they shut down. I think PsEG did a great job. I personally was without power for exactly one week and I honestly felt it could be longer. This storm was horrible. I give these guys credit and I feel for them as hard as they all worked. Give them some slack
Jack Q November 16, 2012 at 07:43 PM
Jackie, I don't need your forgiveness. I have signed the petition, talked to my council person and the mayor so I think things will move in the right direction. Just because someone doesn't help your cadre of the Murphy Republican party, doesn't mean they aren't doing anything. If you need a lawyer, I think Kristen Corrado can help you. Good luck in your future endeavors.
Robert Pignatello November 16, 2012 at 07:49 PM
Yes. I wrote to the BPU last year. Not even the courtesy of a response. There are some new commissioners who were appointed after last year's storms. They should hear from us too. I wish some enlightened legislator would introduce a bill that prohibits utilities from donating campaign cash to the political committees and parties that support the legislators who are supposed to be holding them accountable. Thousands of dollars from both JCP&L and PSE&G to both parties whose funds find their way to local candidates too. In general it's those kinds of ties and the conflicts they create that complicate real solutions and impede healthy debate a lot of the time. They handcuff the ability of elected leaders to act impartially because they are more beholden to their political interests than the public interest.
TCG November 16, 2012 at 07:54 PM
Not sure what forcing private businesses to purchase generators has to do with holding power companies accountable. Power companies have no incentive to do better. And if you think imposing fines will work, look up the word lobbyist. There is not a chance in hell of legislation like this ever passing with any teeth to it. Where were all the politicians BEFORE the storm? We all saw this coming. The Governor was on TV for a week warning us to prepare. So why didn't federal, state and local politicians demand that generators be flown in BEFORE the storm? Why no inventory of gas stations without them? Why no gasolilne trucked in from the 46 states unaffected by the storm? Come on folks, the power companies and the politicans are in bed with each other and would NEVER do anything to harm the other's interests. This is all post-storm bluster that will do NOTHING to get power restored faster in when the next storm hits. The ONLY way to get the attention of the power companies is to pull their license. Wake me up when that happens.
Jacqueline Pisatowski November 16, 2012 at 08:56 PM
Jack Q you really should have just a little class and stop attacking a woman that is volunteering her time. I feel a need to reply. Peter Murphy crashed and burned right after he helped Scott Rumana become Mayor! Many people do not realize that after Scott Rumana lost in a re-election attempt for Freeholder he became a politician looking for a place to hide! He begged Peter Murphy to strip Judy Orsen's Republican Mayoral endorsement so that Rumana again could hold public office. Peter (not the sharpest tool in the shed) agreed and Rumana has been knifing him in the back ever since. They deserve each other! If Rumana is scared of anyone he tries to link them with Peter Murphy. It is the fastest way to get people's attention, but has not done a thing to build the Republican Party for years. If you think I am close with either one of them you have another thing coming. Funny though every time a politician needs 2000 votes from Totowa, Peter Murphy becomes popular! The Wayne Republican Party for the PEOPLE was founded independent of any of these so called political big shots. We are just Wayne Residents that are tired of the tax-and-spend techniques that have eaten away at our incomes and put an undue burden on our families. Why don't you identify yourself and pledge to volunteer with people that really want to make a difference? Or are you really Scott Rumana?
Leslie November 16, 2012 at 09:17 PM
The money and effort are better spent on genuine perparedness plans. Who will be in charge when this stuff happens, where are the shelters, who reports street-by-street outages, where is the communication coming from, etc. My impression is that most people were able to endure 2 to 3 days without power; then it became bad. If we can get organized enough we don't need to bury lines or fine the companies.
MeerAveResident November 16, 2012 at 11:58 PM
Generators at all gas stations? Not tested or oil changed for years at a time? A few weeks ago you were calling anything like this "Job-killing government regulation of the private businesses that built America." You can't have it both ways.
Warren November 17, 2012 at 05:22 AM
Let's get the Rumana and O'Toole Hacks out of this discussion.
Liz Kril November 20, 2012 at 02:35 PM
Is it possible for Montville to have its' own electric company like in Butler? Their electricity was restored in 2 days.

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