PARSIPPANY, NJ - In early February of 2018, Senator Joe Pennacchio who represents Morris Plains as well as other towns within the 26th District, reached across the aisle urging the Chair of the Senate Economic Growth Committee to call for a vote on a bill that would hold utility companies accountable for poor service subjecting them to fines of up to $25,000 per day.
The bill was first introduced on 10/1/12 (prior to Sandy) as a result of ineffective utility response to Hurricane Irene in August of 2011 and an October 2011 snowstorm. Governor Christie requested the legislation which the BPU recommended to give penalties for utilities more teeth (currently $100/day). It has been reintroduced every 2-year session since. The current bill number is S-889 and has been referred to the Senate Economic Growth Committee each session, but has never been allowed a hearing by the Democratic majority. A copy of the letter dated February 2, 2018 asking for the bill to be posted in committee is attached.
Senator Pennacchio had this to say: "We should have learned our lesson after Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy about the need to hold utilities accountable for poor performance, but Democrats keep blocking these reforms. The fines I call for will ensure that power companies have a strong financial incentive to get people reconnected as quickly as possible. Since utilities will be barred from passing on the cost of penalties to ratepayers, it will impact their bottom lines, which will prove to be another incentive to get the lights turned back on. This bill should have been passed 6 years ago when I first introduced it. Democrats have some explaining to do on why they’ve blocked it for so long."
The Bill is S-889, “The Reliability, Preparedness, and Storm Response Act of 2012”. This bill would hold utility companies accountable for the failure to meet certain performance benchmarks for service reliability and communications, and allows for civil penalties for violations of up to $25,000 per day, up to $2 million for any series of related events. Public utilities would be barred from passing on the cost of penalties to ratepayers. Any penalties collected would go into a new BPU Civil Penalty Fund, which will be dedicated to the improvement of public utility service quality and reliability.