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Maplewood Asks State to Investigate PSE&G

Township Committee passes resolution calling for investigation into PSE&G's communication system in the wake of Hurricane Sandy power outages.

 

The Maplewood Township Committee recently adopted a resolution recommending the state Board of Public Utilities (BPU) and the state Legislature conduct an investigation into how PSE&G responds to extreme power outages.

The council unanimously adopted the resolution at its Nov. 20 meeting; it was recently memorialized by the township's attorney.

Modeled after a similar measure recently passed by the South Orange Board of Trustees in the wake of prolonged power outages caused by Hurricane Sandy, Maplewood's resolution calls for the BPU and the Legislature to investigate "how PSE&G manages information, communicates and prepares and responds to extreme power outages," and recommends the state use legislative action to compel public utilities to adopt recommendations that come out of the investigation.

(The full resolution is attached to this article as a PDF).

The resolution notes more than 12,000 township residents and businesses were without power -- some for up to 13 days -- causing severe economic impact as well as affecting residents' "physical and emotional well-being."

Township officials expressed frustration with PSE&G's poor communication of information after the storm. South Orange Village President Alex Torpey and leaders of other Essex County municipalities devastated by Hurricane Sandy, DeLuca told PSE&G President Ralph LaRossa, "Your system is broken."

DeLuca said he thought the utility had "overpromised and underdelivered" and the system of communication and coordination between local governments and the utility company was in need of a "major overhaul." 

The resolution specifies certain areas of concern, including a lack of reliable information regarding restoration timelines and an outdated information management system that led to reports of power being restored when it hadn't.

Suggestions for improvement include that utilities should:

  • provide a spokesperson to handle customer complaints and provide information in person in the municipal building
  • provide twice daily detailed reports to government officials
  • set stronger standards for accuracy and timeliness of information
  • improve the process by which they assign repair crews.
Steve Mershon November 29, 2012 at 10:14 PM
@Maureen: "Public Service Electric and Gas, New Jersey’s largest utility, said it would unveil a five-year, one-of-a-kind plan on Tuesday to install solar panels on 200,000 utility poles in its service territory." (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/10/nyregion/10solar.html)
David Frazer November 30, 2012 at 03:03 AM
I'm not endorsing everything PSE&G did during the storm; certainly, it can improve. This was, however, a completely unprecedented storm. 80% of their customers lost power over the entire service area. Scores of substations were knocked out; thousands of transformers were out; thousands of trees were down on the wires. They were utilizing out-of-state crews and customer service reps working OT. They were, in other words, overwhelmed. This was, primarily, a problem of resources. They didn't have the staff to respond to an unprecedented storm and its aftermath. The only way to meaningfully improve this in the future, i.e., to get the trees trimmed in advance, to remove the trees when they fall or to replace poles sooner, to answer every customer call quickly, requires more staffing, more resources. So, my question to those complaining is this: how much of a rate increase are you prepared to pay to finance crisis-level staffing and resources for PSE&G?
Elisabeth Anderson November 30, 2012 at 11:37 AM
I agree with this gentleman. At one point, they called the hurricane a cyclone. In all my years, I have NEVER heard of a hurricane being called a cyclone, and I have never heared of one in this section of the country. It was an unprecedented storm. In my opinion, there was really no adequate way to prepare for the extensive damage we all suffered.
Colette Warde December 03, 2012 at 04:41 AM
Why can't PSEG improve? What is the problem with that. That's all this article was about. I don't see this as PSEG Is a bad utility company but, some of the processes' in place could use improvement. That makes sense to me. I personally did not lose power and PSEG has always provided good service but, a huge corporation loses sight if they are not corrected when they should be. No big deal. Hopefully, they will implement the new corrective measures and they will even be better. No harm in that. A good CEO would want to know this information to improve his business.
Elisabeth Anderson December 03, 2012 at 09:58 AM
I agree. As I mentioned before, this has been described sometimes as a cyclone, and other times as a hurricane. To me the difference is that with a hurricane, once the storm(s) were over, usually, the water recedes, and life basically gets back to normal. Cyclone damage is probably unprecedented in this part of the world, and no plans were put in place to recover from such a catastrophic event. In 100+? years this region never saw such damage. The population in this area is quite high, and therefore, the damage keeps escalating, well after the event is over.

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