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Governor Christie On Emergency Preparedness: Mistakes Will Not Be Tolerated

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Published on Sep 5, 2012

Public Utilities' Response Press Conference. September 5, 2012 (Transcript Below)

Governor Christie: Before and since the storms occurred I made it clear that this administration is committed to improving the level of preparedness of the public utilities, to ensure that service is as reliable as is possible and that we're as prepared and ready as possible to respond to any event that can cause an outage.

So in the aftermath of those storms and as a direct result of some of the real hardships that were created by the extensive and sustained power outages, I directed the Board of Public Utilities to conduct an investigation of the electric utilities' planning and restoration decisions and actions.

Today, the BPU releases the findings of this investigation, which provides a detailed accounting of the utilities' performance during the storms as well as recommendations for improvement.

We're taking action as a result beginning today. We'll be sending legislation down the hall that includes measures essential to fixing the system and putting the ratepayers first.

The legislation chiefly does three things.

First, it strengthens our oversight and accountability systems for the electric utilities.

Secondly, it prioritizes preparedness and reliability standards to protect ratepayers as much as possible, even before an emergency occurs.

And third it empowers our regulators with the ability to levy financial penalties with real teeth, and protect ratepayers from having the cost of those penalties passed on to them.

Under the legislation, civil administrative penalties will be charged for a maximum daily assessment of a hundred dollars under current law to $25,000, with a maximum of $2 million in fines for any serious violations related to a particular event. Just as importantly, public utilities will be barred from passing on the cost of these penalties to the ratepayers. The legislation also sets high but fair planning and reliability standards for utilities to abide by in the event of emergencies that threaten service delivery, including the development and enforcement by the BPU of a set of performance benchmarks for service delivery, service disruption preparedness, service restoration, and communications for electric distribution companies that do business in our state.

Two, annually submitted plans for each utility company. One for service reliability, and one for strategic communication during an emergency.

Third, the legislation also grants the BPU investigative authority to review public utility performance during an outage, and if found to be failing in implementing the reliability plan that the utility sent to the BPU, to impose civil administrative penalties at those new higher levels that l referenced earlier.

I urge the Legislature to act quickly to pass this bill before the winter so that we can have these things in place before we get into the winter storm season and give the BPU the type of flexibility it needs to be able to perform the functions we expect it to be able to perform to protect the public. This bill says to the ratepaying families and businesses of New Jersey that we have taken a close look at the events and the missteps of last year and we learned some lessons from them, and we're taking action to fix the problems and to ensure that the challenges and frustrations they faced with those extensive outages last year and the miscommunication that resulted are not repeated.

We're also sending a message that these type of mistakes won't be tolerated. If emergencies are not planned for and responded to in a deliberate way that serves the ratepayers, there will be real consequences.

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