Lawmaker Blasts BPU for Utility Holdup [AUDIO]
It's becoming a regular routine in New Jersey. Whether in summer or winter, whenever there's severe weather, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, and sometimes even millions of people lose power in their homes and businesses - sometimes for several days or even weeks.
One Garden state lawmaker says enough is enough.
"The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities has done nothing to go ahead with plans put forth by our utility companies to upgrade the infrastructure," said State Sen. Ray Lesniak, who has proposed the Public Utility Reliability Investment Act.
Lesniak said that on Long Island, "PSE&G is already investing millions to upgrade the New York infrastructure since Sandy, meanwhile we're sitting back and doing nothing because it's stalled at the BPU."
Lesniak wants the BPU to give the power companies permission for a rate hike so the upgrades can move forward.
"I'm hearing from businesses who are saying if we're going to down without power for a week, two weeks every single year, we're not going to stay in New Jersey," he said. "It's affecting our every days residents, it's affecting our businesses and we're losing jobs - there are an incredible amount of construction jobs that are going unfulfilled while the BPU sits on its hands and does nothing."
Lesniak conceded some people may be nervous about a rate increase, but he stressed, "people get nervous when they don't have power for days on end, businesses get nervous when they don't have power for days."
"Because of mandated rate increases that are going to be going off the books the additional cost to consumers will be minimal if not anything," Lesniak said. "If we want the utilities to upgrade their infrastructure, money doesn't just fall from the sky and people aren't going to just give away billions of dollars for this, so we need to allow a rate increase."
Lesniak added current tree trimming programs are not sufficient, but one major problem is many municipalities don't give utilities the authority to trim trees near power lines because Shade Tree Commissions don't want trees to be trimmed.
A spokesman for the BPU said: "Sen. Lesniak will ignore the facts to make a point. We have gone through infrastructure and resiliency petitions from New Jersey utilities as quickly as the law allows us to."