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Chivukula & Riley Bill to Hold Utilities Accountable for Service Outages Released by Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Upendra Chivukula and Celeste Riley to hold utility companies accountable for restoring service after outages and toughen fines for lapses was released Monday by an Assembly panel.
“Extended service outages have long plagued New Jersey consumers,” said Chivukula (D-Somerset/Middlesex). “Reliable electricity and natural gas utility service is essential to the health, welfare and safety of New Jerseyans and necessary to serve our economy, and with this bill we will ensure state government agencies, regional entities and electric and gas public utilities are working together to ensure electric and gas service reliability. Consumer protection is a priority.”
Chivukula introduced a version of the bill in May. It would require the Board of Public Utilities to develop and enforce uniform performance benchmarks for service reliability, disruption preparedness, service restoration and communications for electric and water companies in the state.
The board would have authority to investigate a utility’s performance and levy fines of up to $25,000 for violations, with no more than $2 million for any related series of events. Companies would not be permitted to pass on costs of the fines to consumers.
“The adoption of uniform statewide standards of acceptable performance in the areas of service reliability and restoration of service by electric and gas public utilities doing business in the state will help minimize health and safety problems occurring due to utility service hazards or disruptions,” said Riley (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “This has been a long-standing problem and I’m glad to see the willingness to help solve it. This bill ensures consumer protection is considered vital.”
The bill also requires utilities to file a public emergency communication plan and a flood mitigation plan for substations.
The bill was released by the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee chaired by Chivukula.