Agency: NJ utilities didn't communicate post-Sandy

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 5, 2012 at 4:51 pm •  Published: December 5, 2012
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He said the utility has already begun strengthening the power grid but acknowledged that the system has been weakened by the intake of saltwater from the surge and fuel from a 350,000 diesel spill just afterward.

That will result in more outages until permanent repairs can be made.

For example, a minor storm Tuesday night temporarily knocked out power to 9,000 customers, three times the number that would normally be affected by a weather system of that magnitude, he said.

Later, the head of Jersey Central Power & Light, the state's second-largest utility, was grilled by the panel over how his utility handled the superstorm, which left 1.3 million of its customers without power, some of whom got their power back briefly after the hurricane but lost it again during the nor'easter.

CEO Donald Lynch acknowledged there was confusion managing out-of-state line crews and tree cutters, but he said he was pleased that all customers were back online 13 days after such a huge storm.

The company on Dec. 1 asked for permission to boost its rates by at least 1.4 percent to improve infrastructure and cope with losses from prior storms.

Sen. Kevin O'Toole was incensed at the timing of the rate hike request. During one heated exchange, the North Jersey Republican said, "It's a real stick in the eye, Mr. President, to have to sit here and field calls from my constituents that your folks are asking for a $31 million increase when some of them are barely getting their lights up. It's insulting."

Hanna of the BPU said JCP&L was ordered to file a base-rate case because of allegations that it is taking money from New Jersey and sending it to its parent company, First Energy Corp., in Ohio. The utility chose to ask for a rate increase as part of that filing.

Hanna criticized the utilities' communications with customers and lawmakers after the storm.

Though there had been improvements since last year's Hurricane Irene, "the grade is still F," Hanna said. He said the BPU is doing its own audit of the utilities' communications systems to determine how they can improve.

At each stage of the storm, the utilities are generating information internally, he said. In the future, the utilities must be able to pass information about power restoration in real time to the public, he said.