State Senators Joe Pennacchio and Kevin O’Toole introduced Governor Chris Christie’s ‘Reliability, Preparedness and Storm Response Act of 2012’  on Thursday to significantly decrease or nullify the time New Jerseyans are without utilities in the wake of natural disasters and emergencies.

Utility crews on Route 1 (Eric Scott, Townsquare Media NJ)

The legislation increases civil administrative penalties from a $100 daily assessment to $25,000 per violation, with a maximum $2 million civil penalty for any related series of events. Public utilities would be barred from passing on the cost of penalties to ratepayers. This initiative stems from state Board of Public Utilities’ recommendations related to Hurricane Irene and the October 2011 snowstorm, which caused extensive, sustained power outages across the state.

“This strict accountability measure protects the public from the dangers and hardships caused by deficiencies in New Jersey’s public utility infrastructure and utility communication protocols, which were exposed by last year’s storms,” explains Pennacchio. “We expect utility companies to engage in this as a demonstration of corporate citizenship, whereby they take responsibilities to prepare as much as possible for future weather emergencies.”

O’Toole says, “Ratepayers already pay enough for what should be safe, reliable and expeditious utility services. This Act is a long time coming, highlighted by the lessons learned after last year’s disasters, and warrants swift action by our legislature.”

Assembly Republicans Gregory McGuckin, Scott Rumana and Donna Simon, have also prepared legislation for introduction on Monday, to help ensure the power stays on in homes and businesses when disaster strikes.