BUSINESS & ECONOMY

BPU holds second hearing on winter storm outages

BY Brenda Flanagan, Senior Correspondent |

People can get hot when they talk about getting left out in the cold, and utility customers commented on power outages at a Board of Public Utilities hearing in Parsippany.

The state got slammed by back-to-back nor’easters around the first week of March. Hundreds of thousands of customers across the state lost power, mostly after trees and branches collapsed under heavy wet snow, and took down power lines.

A lot of those customers remained without power for days. Many who lost power in the first storm, still hadn’t gotten it restored before the second storm hit. Some stayed in hotels, some with family, some at warming centers set up by towns.

The chorus of complaints got so loud that the governor ordered the BPU to investigate, and as part of that, the agency’s holding these public hearings. At the hearing in Parsippany, the focus is on JCP&L, which holds the franchise to operate in this area. A lot of the complaints mention a lack of organization and poor communication.

More than half of Parsippany residents were impacted, that’s about 53 percent representing over 14,000 customers at its peak, I believe. Among the victims of the storm were people with disabilities and serious health issues who do not have the option of being without power for three, six, or in some cases, nine days,” said Parsippany-Troy Hills Mayor Michael Soriano.

“If I had to rate the performance of JCP&L in respect to Chatham Borough, they would get an ‘F’. It was a total failure in our estimation,” said Len Resto, Chatham Borough Council president. “Our school system had to use three snow days because we couldn’t get power back to the school system for that amount of time.”

The public hearing is focusing on JCP&L because this is their franchise area and they’re responsible for providing power. A lot of the complaints focused on the work crews that were brought in from out of state, mutual aid, by JCP&L. Some say that they saw these crews sitting on the side of the road because they were simply waiting for work orders.

Throughout this, JCP&L has maintained that they met all of the 100 protocols for performance that were established after superstorm Sandy. They say that they will continue to listen and to improve as these hearings continue.

The BPU has three more hearings planned in other utilities’ franchise territories for PSE&G, Atlantic City Electric and Orange & Rockland.