Two Sandy-related bills advance

TRENTON – The Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee continued its post-Sandy autopsy  Thursday with a goal of improving electric companies’ performance, communication and response in future storms.

Last month, the committee heard testimony from utilities assessing the problems of dealing with such an unprecedented storm.

The panel also dealt with two bills spurred by Sandy.

A3654:  Requires electric public utilities and municipal and county shade tree commissions to meet annually concerning vegetation management, and requires the commissions to implement vegetation management plans. It was released 6-0.

Sponsor Assemblyman Joe Cryan said the bill’s purpose is to allow utilities to cut down vegetation that poses a threat to lines.

Andrew Hendry, president of the N.J. Utilities Association, said they support the bill. “During Sandy there were over 100,000 trees impacted on lines,’’ he said.  “There is a lack of consistency and a lack of clarity” among shade tree commissions and about the utilities’ authority, he said.

A3535: The bill, released  7-0, establishes the “Energy Infrastructure Study Commission.”  The commission will consist of 20 members selected  from  the Board of Public Utilities, the Division of Rate Counsel, two members of the Senate, two members of the General Assembly, four public members, and five members appointed by the Governor.

Of the members appointed by the Governor, three would be selected from a list submitted by the New Jersey Utilities Association, and two would be mayors: one selected from a list submitted by the New Jersey Conference of Mayors, and one selected from a list submitted by the New Jersey State League of Municipalities.

Among other things, the panel would examine ways to improve New Jersey’s infrastructure, feasibility of installing utility lines underground, and ways to prevent line damage by tree limbs.

Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo said this will ensure that next time there is a super storm, the infrastructure needs will have been addressed.

The N.J. Business and Industry Association seeks a business representative added to the commission. NJBIA’s Sara Bluhm said businesses consume 65 percent of the energy in the state.

DeAngelo said there will still be discussions about membership levels on the commission, and he would consider the association’s recommendation.

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Assembly members press utilities on Sandy-related problems

Two Sandy-related bills advance