BPU head: Utility communication lacking in Sandy’s aftermath

TRENTON – Communication is paramount in the wake of natural disasters that cause wide-scale power outages in the state, according to the head of the Board of Public Utilities.

BPU President Robert Hanna told Senate lawmakers that communication from the state’s utility companies was generally lacking after superstorm Sandy, and argued improvements are a must.

“The problem is the utilities are not generating information in a way that is useful to the public,” said Hanna, arguing that even when lines of communication are open, they are not always effective or made in the best interest of customers.

But what is more, said Hanna, is that repairs must be swifter.

“What we really have to work on is getting the power restored faster,” he said.

Hanna said officials also have to be clear on another issue that has been getting a fair amount of attention following the storm: tree trimming.

“The utility company has the authority to trim those trees,” he said, referring to trees that are in the immediate right of way of utility lines.

“But, if the roots of that tree are not in the right of way, they do not have the authority to take that tree down,” said Hanna, adding trees that are 12 feet from the curb are towns’ responsibilities.

Hanna described hearing little desire from town officials to fight pushback from people opposed to cutting down those trees. He told lawmakers there must be a focus on the local level to keep up with tree maintenance if towns want to better protect their residents from power outages.

“Most people recognize that if you were to turn Shade Lane into Sunshine Drive, we would have less outages,” he said.

 

BPU head: Utility communication lacking in Sandy’s aftermath