FLEMINGTON, NJ – Jersey Central Power & Light says concerns about “security and safety” prevent the company from publicly releasing the cause of some of its power outages.
The decision is a departure from past practice, when the company was transparent after it had issues with its equipment or distribution system.
The utility seems to have performed well during the recent heat wave.
“Typically, we’ll have overloads on circuits,” JCP&L Area Manager Stan Prater told Hunterdon Freeholders July 16 as part of his regular report. “We’ll call (them) power outages.”
But Prater’s Freeholder report didn’t mention the company’s “emergency” planned outage that affected thousands of its customers in East Amwell and the surrounding area last month.
At the time, JCP&L spokesperson Cliff Cole said that the outage was necessary for the company to perform “emergency repairs.” He wouldn’t say whether that involved the JCP&L substation in Ringoes, or whether it was to work on other parts of its system, such as poles or lines.
When pressed at last week's public Freeholder meeting, Prater declined to provide detail.
“We don’t get into specifics,” Prater said. “We’re living in an age when security and safety is very important.” Prater said he would “not disseminate” information regarding the emergency but said he’d explain it privately to the Freeholders.
It isn’t clear that the Freeholders sought an explanation. But East Amwell Mayor Rick Wolfe did seek answers - without success.
Wolfe said last week that he reached out to Prater who, while friendly and courteous to him on the phone, insisted the company, “Absolutely, positively, will not disclose” the details regarding what the company identified as an “emergency.”
Wolfe said he believes in transparency from both government and public utilities, and that residents deserve some detail when a utility announces an emergency.
“Slime grows in darkness,” Wolfe said.
According to the state Board of Public Utilities, which regulates electric utilities in the state, the planned outage “occurred so that JCP&L could repair/close one of their load break switches to energize a bank in their substation.”
BPU spokesperson Peter Peretzman said, “The planned outage was necessary in order to safely restore the bank to service.”
Prater told the Freeholders that the repairs at the Ringoes substaion were completed successfully, but he didn’t return a phone call this afternoon seeking comment for this update.
As the heat wave drags on, about 120 of JCP&L’s Hunterdon customers were without power this afternoon. “Inclement weather” was the most common explanation for the outages, according to the JCP&L website.