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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specifies certain areas of concern, including a lack of reliable information regarding restoration timelines and an outdated information management system that led to reports of power being restored when it hadn't.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.
Lee Navlen November 29, 2012 at 11:55 AM
Seems like a waste of time. A natural disaster tends to disrupt. I see no reason for this resolution other than grandstanding.
Elisabeth Anderson November 29, 2012 at 12:45 PM
How many trees were lost in the storm?
Michael McMahon November 29, 2012 at 01:05 PM
I was without electricity for 12 days with a brief period of power for about 14 hours in the middle of the storm's aftermath. PSE&G never called me to explain why I was without power. I took a hint that it was the storm. The world did not come to an end. Deal with it and stop looking to blame someone else. Other people had far greater problems as a result of the storm than being without power for a relative short period of time. Was it inconvenient, certainly, but not devastating.
Elisabeth Anderson November 29, 2012 at 01:51 PM
I guess you had heat! My Mom and I had to go to my brother's in the Poconos, and I had to buy beds. On a fix income, and with a Mom with a heart condition, the cold was, dangerous!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Michael November 29, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Storms leading up to Sandy made it quite clear that regular maintenance of utility poles and surrounding trees must be a priority to maintain service during storms and to speed repairs following those storms. PSE&G did, in fact, spend sufficient resources to visit nearly every utility pole in the area and to do extensive work on those utility poles. Unfortunately for customers, this effort was entirely for the purpose of installing solar panels and/or facilitating the installation of micro cell transmission equipment. Neither of these initiatives should have had priority over the maintenance work that is needed. These initiatives were not in any way launched to improve/support day-to-day service to PSE&G customers. As far as I'm concerned, this is unacceptable.
Shamrock1224 November 29, 2012 at 03:37 PM
I agree with you Elisabeth. We had no power for 7 days, and no heat. I had Loews and Home Depot do a 50-100 mile radius search for a generator, but they could not be found. My husband and I are both Seniors, and when the sun went down, the house got mighty cold. We wound up sleeping on my office floor on an air mattress. It wasn't the Ritz, but at least we were warm. What was perplexing was that Park Ave, right behind us (we are on Sommer Av) had power the Thurs following the storm, or out 3 days. We didn't get ours back until Election Day at 5PM, or 9 days. As I said you can always manage the dark with flashlights etc, but the cold is another thing.
Shamrock1224 November 29, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Forgot to add - a big thank you to the following merchants: Gaslight (So Orange) when we spoke with the owner and manager they welcomed us with open arms, and told us to stay as long as needed to keep warm. Parkwood Diner (Maplewood), when they got their power back, they also told us to take our time (we go here regularly). Also the movie complex in So Orange was great, the opened their lower level for people to charge phones & computers, and to use their computers. We got to see some good movies, and keep warm with other locals. They didn't rush people out either, because most of us had no place to go. To the DeHart Community Center, who took people in from not only Maplewood/So-Orange, but other areas as well, and they let us bring our little anklebiter (aptly named "Sandy") into the sitting area with us as well. They also provided food through the generosity of others. As one Sr said to me "any port in a storm is welcomed". The volunteers should be commended.
Earl Jacobus November 29, 2012 at 04:03 PM
The PSE&G computerized information line worked for a while, then after a few days it was mysteriously disconnected. I don't know if this was intentional or not, but it certainly did not help to keep me informed of progress. I have my own suspicions.
Elisabeth Anderson November 29, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Thank you for your support Both my brother and I felt that the shelter would really not be comfortable for Mom, 85. Since PSEG was never off this long, during my 5 year in Maplewood, and we had no real idea when it would come back. I appreciate the shelter, but my Mom also has other physical limitations. Those like Mayor Bloomberg and this gentlemen, who are gung ho, don't realize others are not so adaptable at this stage of life.
Richard Murphy November 29, 2012 at 05:16 PM
5 or so weeks and 2 calls and emails later after storm, 2 poles on Maplewood Ave and Mountain Ave haven't been fixed or replaced. they are leaning and it is very dark here on a bad curve at night !Wires are lower than normal. I called PSE&G twice and contact the town,and they said they will get here, but 2 weeks later and nothing has been done.
maureen November 29, 2012 at 07:46 PM
PSE&G does not install Solar Panels. If you are going to blame someone for something get your facts straight.
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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