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Assembly Panel Advances Benson, Pinkin, & Murphy Bill to Require BPU to Set Standards for Emergency Prep and Service Restoration after a Power Outage

To more efficiently handle power outages in the state when they occur, Assembly Homeland Security Committee approved legislation sponsored by Assembly members Daniel Benson, Nancy Pinkin and Carol Murphy to require the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to establish a set of standards for emergency preparation and restoration of service after an outage that every investor-owned electric public utility in the State must follow.

“New Jersey has seen severe power outages after a storm lasting days and, sometimes, weeks at a time for some parts of the state,” said Assemblyman Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “One plan for all utilities to follow is necessary. This way residents know exactly what they can expect from their utility company when a power outage happens.”

“Tropical Storm Isaias brought rain, flooding, wind gusts comparable to that of Superstorm Sandy,” said Assemblywoman Pinkin (D-Middlesex). ‘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.”

The bill (A-2454) would also require every utility to file an emergency response plan with BPU.  This plan would serve as an official plan of action for each utility in the event of a major power outage and must include:

  • the identification of management staff responsible for utility operations during an emergency;
  • an explanation of the utility’s system of communication with customers during an emergency that extends beyond normal business hours and business conditions;
  • a history of contacts with customers that document a need of essential electricity for medical reasons;
  • designation of utility staff to communicate with local officials and relevant regulatory agencies;
  • provisions regarding how the utility will assure the safety of its employees and contractors; procedures for deploying utility and mutual aid crews to work assignment areas; and
  • identification of supplies and equipment anticipated to be needed by the utility during an emergency and the means of obtaining additional supplies and equipment.

“There was a lot of confusion amongst residents during the last big storm event, Isaias,” said Assemblywoman Murphy (D-Burlington). “Utilities may have plans in place; however, we must make sure they are all on the same page and working efficiently toward ending a power outage.”

The bill will now go to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.