TRENTON, N.J. – Assemblyman Christopher DePhillips wrote to Board of Public Utilities President Joseph Fiordaliso recently to call for a new directive to require regulated utilities to provide power to customers within 48 hours of the reported outage.
“It is my opinion that BPU should insist that the utilities be required to live within a 48-hour standard, i.e., once outages go into day 3, utilities should be required to provide generator power for their customers,” wrote DePhillips (R-Bergen) in response to an August letter from the BPU leader. “No matter the strength of the storm, residents should not have to wait nearly a week to have their power restored.”
He also strongly disagreed with Fiordaliso’s contention that the timeframes for power restoration were “not unreasonable” noting the facts that only 80 percent of customers were restored within the first 72 hours while other customers were restored within six days. He again called for the board to hold public hearings on the response by electric utilities to Tropical Storm Isaias.
DePhillips has closely followed the repeated failure of regulated utilities to quickly restore power to customers after storms since coming to the Assembly. After Isaias, the Wyckoff assemblyman submitted testimony to a joint hearing of the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities and the Homeland Security committees on August 20 after massive power outages.
“Hurricane Irene; the 2011 Halloween Snow Storm; Hurricane Sandy; the March 2018 storms; and now Tropical Storm Isaias – it’s the same old story, different storm,” wrote DePhillips. “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 said that the response of power companies has not changed since Hurricane Sandy, and that the Board of Public Utilities response also has not changed.
“It’s like watching the same horror movie over and over again,” said DePhillips in his written testimony. ““Isaias was like all the other storms. We knew it was coming, but the utilities were not prepared and did not have emergency crews online and ready to restore power until days after the storm did its damage.”
At that time, DePhillips suggested lawmakers consider a bill he sponsors (A108) that gives municipalities the right to revoke a utility’s franchise if it cannot provide continuous, safe, and reliable service. The bill unanimously passed the Telecommunications Committee in October 2018.
“Let’s give towns the tools to pick another utility or co-op if their current utility cannot get the job done,” said DePhillips. “As I said before, this is America. We should have competition in the utility industry, not a monopoly.”