Senators express displeasure with utility storm response, rate hike request

TRENTON – Between 12,000 to 15,000 homes and businesses on New Jersey’s barrier islands are still without power, according to Jersey Central Power & Light Company officials.

Don Lynch, president of JCP&L, told Senate lawmakers today that a total of about 20,000 customers are still without power more than a month after superstorm Sandy hit the state.

Lynch echoed similar comments made by the head of the Public Service Electric & Gas utility during Wednesday’s Senate hearing on utility companies’ response to the storm, saying tree trimming, adding redundancies to the utility infrastructure and getting better communication during future events are three areas needing improvement.

Roughly 1.3 million JCP&L customers were knocked off the power grid as a result of the storm, and about 65,000 trees were cut and cleared to restore power to JCP&L customers, according to Lynch.

Earlier during Lynch’s testimony, he was cut off by the panel’s chairman while giving a rundown of the storm’s unprecedented nature.

“It was nearly a thousand miles across and when you look at that compared to the size of [Hurricane] Katrina, for instance, it was more than twice the size of Katrina,” said Lynch, while a slideshow of the storm was being displayed behind him.

“We all know how intense the storm was, I don’t want to be educated about the storm,” interrupted Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-36).

“I appreciate the slides and I appreciate the impact of the storm,” he said. “But we get that.”

Lynch was criticized by several lawmakers about what they said was a lack of communication on behalf of JCP&L’s customers in response to the storm.

“Your local folks were nowhere to be found,” said Sen. Kevin O’Toole (R-40), who also criticized the company for requesting a rate hike in the immediate aftermath of the storm.

“It’s a real stick in the eye … that your folks are asking for a $31 million rate hike,” snapped O’Toole, telling Lynch that JCP&L should focus on being a “better business partner in this state.”

O’Toole noted JCP&L profits are leaving the state, and he argued maybe some of that money should stay in New Jersey and be put into improving infrastructure.

“The learning curve has got to stop,” he said, referring to discussions immediately following storms, arguing that action needs to be taken.

 

Senators express displeasure with utility storm response, rate hike request