Rep. Smith: JCP&L’s Isaias Response Was ‘Extraordinarily Slow’

FREEHOLD, NJ – After Tropical Storm Isaias rattled the Garden State and left over 200,000 Monmouth County residents without power at the height of the storm, many locals criticized municipal officials and power authorities for slow restoration efforts.

In a letter dated Aug. 10 to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, congressman Chris Smith (NJ-4) expressed similar feelings towards energy provider JCP&L, calling the company’s response “extraordinarily slow” and “unreasonably burdensome on the rate payers”.

“Reports estimate that 1.7 million people went without power after Superstorm Sandy–a destructive multi-day storm that brought loss of life, devastation to property and out economy, and outages that lasted weeks in some cases,” Smith wrote in the letter, addressed to New Jersey Board of Public Utilities president Joe Fiordaliso. Yet, after eight years and one-billion dollars in infrastructure investments, Tropical Storm Isaias blew through the area in a matter of four or five hours and left a stunning 1.4 million people without power in New Jersey. And nearly five days later, on Sunday morning, August 9th, nearly 27,000 Jersey Central Power & Light customers were still unplugged.”

The congressman also detailed that constituents who rely on electric-power well water – namely in Manalapan, Millstone, Colts Neck, Wall Township and Upper Freehold – went largely without fresh water during several hot days in August. He also described how nearly all JCP&L customers in Fair Haven, Roosevelt and Millstone lost power. Four days after Isaias, 90% of Fair Haven residents were still left in the dark, according to Smith.

“While some water and ice were provided for free, the lack of running water in homes and businesses raises additional sanitary concerns,” the congressman wrote.

Smith called JCP&L’s response “frustrating to constituents”, a “lack of communication” in failing to provide estimates for many municipalities. While a “global restoration date” was provided (listed as Aug. 11 at 11:30 p.m., over one week after the storm), Smith argued that the absence of restoration estimates on a town-by-town basis left many residents unprepared.

The congressman concluded the letter with a request for the Board of Public Utilities to increase its oversight over JCP&L “to ensure that the utility has a viable, rapid-response plan” that can identify and overcome storm recovery program weaknesses, anticipate sanitary health needs and demonstrate its preparedness to address power outages in the future.

“There may be no way to prevent all outages, but our utilities must constantly strive to be ready for the next storm,” Smith wrote. “Unfortunately, it appears that the response of JCP&L has lagged that of other utilities and has unduly burdened customers, disrupting their daily activities and costing them dearly in lost goods and productivity.”