TRENTON, N.J. – Ahead of what Farmers’ Almanac is predicting to be a snowy and cold winter for New Jersey, the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee held a hearing on a measure (A108) that would ensure customers receive high-quality service from their utilities.
Assemblyman Christopher P. DePhillips, a prime sponsor of the bill, has been an outspoken critic of utility companies’ response following storms like August’s Tropical Storm Isaias, Hurricane Irene, the 2011 Halloween Snow Storm and Hurricane Sandy.
“We live in a civilized society, but the response by our power companies to serious storms over the last 10 years would suggest otherwise. If you listen to the utilities, you would believe that living without electricity and water for seven to 10 days or more is the norm, not the exception,” DePhillips (R-Bergen) said in written testimony during legislative hearings as a result of power outages after Tropical Storm Isaias.
The “Storm Response Bill,” which is also sponsored by Assemblyman Kevin J. Rooney, gives municipalities the right to revoke a utility’s franchise if it cannot provide continuous, safe, and reliable service.
“We need to turn up the heat on these power companies by injecting some competition into the industry,” said Rooney (R-Bergen). “Residents shouldn’t have to pay for service that continuously leaves them without heat, lights or even running water in some cases.”
The lawmakers said that utilities are obligated under law to provide the service that is lacking for several days or a week after a storm hits.
“Storm after storm, utilities fail to have emergency crews ready. Even though they know the storm is coming, they wait days after its damage is done before they call up emergency crews and restore power,” said DePhillips. “This bill will give towns the tools to pick another utility or co-op if their current company cannot get the job done.”
The bill also unanimously passed the Telecommunications Committee in October 2018.