Christie: Hike Fines Against Power Utilities for Poor Performance During Emergencies

Governor Chris Christie has announced proposed legislation today that would dramatically increase fines for power utilities that leave customers in the dark as a result of avoidable power failures.

The governor is calling on the state’s lawmakers to act on legislation that would increase fines for utilities from the current $100 a day to up to $25,000 a day for bad performance, with a cap of $2 million per event.

After Hurricane Irene, more than 1.8 million people were left without power. Some Mercer County and Hunterdon County residents did not have their power restored for days. Christie said the responses from utilities to last year’s emergencies included “avoidable mistakes.”

Utilities that left customers without power for up to a week during Hurricane Irene and the October blizzard last year are now required to comply with more than 140 industry-wide recommendations on handling power delivery through a crisis.

State Assemblywoman Donna Simon (R-Hunterdon, Somerset, Mercer and Middlesex) voiced support for the legislation today, saying that even during extreme weather conditions, electric companies must improve their response to power outages.

“People should not be left in their cold, dark homes with misleading information about when their power will be restored,” Simon said.

The proposed legislation includes requiring improved plans from utilities. Penalties against utilities cannot be passed on to ratepayers under the legislation.

“This proposal will improve utilities’ performance and hold them accountable to the homes and businesses they service,” Simon said. “This protects ratepayers and represents a strong step toward preventing the catastrophic outages our communities suffered last year.”