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Utility Companies Accountable Under Proposed Bill

State Sen. Kevin O'Toole wants PSE&G, JCP&L and others to improve response times during emergency situations.

A North Jersey state senator is proposing legislation to cut down on the long lines at gas stations and ensure the safety of residents during emergencies.

State Sen. Kevin O’Toole (R-Cedar Grove) is co-sponsoring the New Jersey Residents Power Protection Act. The legislation would hold utility companies accountable for their response times during emergencies. It would also require gas stations and other facilities to have generators on hand to ensure residents have access to power and gasoline during emergencies situations.

“It was apocalyptic in North Jersey in the days following Hurricane Sandy,” O’Toole said. “Sometimes, there was no evidence of any activity by the power companies at all.”

O’Toole spoke regularly with several North Jersey mayors, including Chris Vergano of Wayne and Paul Aronsohn of Ridgewood, about the lack of progress PSE&G, JCP&L and Orange and Rockland were making in restoring power to hundreds of thousands of North Jersey residents.

“He personally assisted the township in finding fuel supplies to keep the township in business so our Department of Public Works and fire trucks could respond to residents during the storm,” Wyckoff Mayor Chris DePhillips said. “He also worked hand-in-hand with me to apply strong pressure on both PSE&G and Orange & Rockland to get the necessary restoration crews into Wyckoff.”

PSE&G cut the power to the only overnight shelter in Ridgewood for eight hours Nov. 4.

Several mayors, including Vergano, and Aronsohn, publically criticized the power companies for their lack of preparedness and response to Sandy.

The RPPA would require assisted living facilities, firehouses and gas stations, among other facilities, to have emergency generators running during power outages.

New grocery stores, including smaller ones like Quick Chek, would be required to install a generator on their property. Small businesses could apply for a tax deduction for installing a generator.

“This will help utility companies in restoring power and clearing roadways with the relief that the critical need facilities are operating,” O’Toole said. “Vendors were delivering fuel to towns so their emergency vehicles could be fueled.”

The RPPA would require the state Board of Public Utilities to develop and enforce performance benchmarks for power companies.

Companies would be required to file a service reliability plan and an emergency communications strategic plan.

The bill would increase the civil penalties utility companies would pay for violating rules enforced by the BPU.

Penalties would increase from $100 a day to $25,000 for each violation up to $2 million. Penalties would go into a special fund. The BPU would use the funds to increase service quality and reliability.

Cracking Down on Price Gouging, Scam Artists

O’Toole is also sponsoring proposed legislation that would increase the penalty for burglary in a municipality where a state of emergency has been declared. The charge would be upgraded from a third-degree to a second-degree offense.

The legislation could be expanded to include trespassing and theft by deception to curb price gouging by gas stations. Two Newark gas stations were accused of price gouging in the aftermath of Sandy.

If expanded, the legislation would help stop illicit contractors from attempting to scam residents out of their money. These scam artists go door-to-door promising residents to fix their damaged homes. Once they receive their deposits they leave and don’t perform the work.

That bill is still being drafted and has not been introduced yet.

Jacqueline Pisatowski November 16, 2012 at 08:56 PM
Jack Q you really should have just a little class and stop attacking a woman that is volunteering her time. I feel a need to reply. Peter Murphy crashed and burned right after he helped Scott Rumana become Mayor! Many people do not realize that after Scott Rumana lost in a re-election attempt for Freeholder he became a politician looking for a place to hide! He begged Peter Murphy to strip Judy Orsen's Republican Mayoral endorsement so that Rumana again could hold public office. Peter (not the sharpest tool in the shed) agreed and Rumana has been knifing him in the back ever since. They deserve each other! If Rumana is scared of anyone he tries to link them with Peter Murphy. It is the fastest way to get people's attention, but has not done a thing to build the Republican Party for years. If you think I am close with either one of them you have another thing coming. Funny though every time a politician needs 2000 votes from Totowa, Peter Murphy becomes popular! The Wayne Republican Party for the PEOPLE was founded independent of any of these so called political big shots. We are just Wayne Residents that are tired of the tax-and-spend techniques that have eaten away at our incomes and put an undue burden on our families. Why don't you identify yourself and pledge to volunteer with people that really want to make a difference? Or are you really Scott Rumana?
Leslie November 16, 2012 at 09:17 PM
The money and effort are better spent on genuine perparedness plans. Who will be in charge when this stuff happens, where are the shelters, who reports street-by-street outages, where is the communication coming from, etc. My impression is that most people were able to endure 2 to 3 days without power; then it became bad. If we can get organized enough we don't need to bury lines or fine the companies.
MeerAveResident November 16, 2012 at 11:58 PM
Generators at all gas stations? Not tested or oil changed for years at a time? A few weeks ago you were calling anything like this "Job-killing government regulation of the private businesses that built America." You can't have it both ways.
Warren November 17, 2012 at 05:22 AM
Let's get the Rumana and O'Toole Hacks out of this discussion.
Liz Kril November 20, 2012 at 02:35 PM
Is it possible for Montville to have its' own electric company like in Butler? Their electricity was restored in 2 days.

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