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Hurricane Clean-Up Causing Big PR Problems For NJ Utilities [AUDIO]

First there was hurricane Sandy last week, then Jersey was belted by a nor’easter last night – and hundreds of thousands of Garden State residents remain without power.

Allison Joyce, Getty Images

Richard Michelfelder, a professor of finance, and a utilities expert at the Rutgers-Camden school of business, says, “Utilities spend vast resources to try and prevent outages and improve reliability, but the only way they can get back in the good graces of the public is to work as hard as they can and get everybody restored as fast as they can.”

He says for folks that have been without electricity, since Sanday, “It’s going to be very difficult to give that person a warm and fuzzy feeling about the power company when they can’t cook, they can’t heat their homes…I’d say the best thing the power companies can do is to do the best they can, which is what they have been doing.”

The professor adds, “There will most likely be hearings, there will most likely be lots of questions being asked by the Board of Public Utilities – you know they’ve been through this once before, and I’m sure they’re going to go through it again…I don’t know if there’s much you can do with a person who’s been without power for a week and a half and is not sure when it’s going to go back on.”

He points out the power companies have been giving customers the worst-case scenarios for when electricity will be restored.

“But when you’re looking at power being out for a week and a half – there’s little you’re going to do to appease anybody… It comes down to – how much are we willing to pay for reliability for the utilities – it costs 7 to 10 times as much to put power lines underground- but are people willing to pay for that? Probably not.”

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