If New Jersey is going to make sure it is better prepared for major storms like Sandy, we need to start studying up now. That's the thought of one State legislator who is pushing a bill to create a 20-member commission to find ways to improve our utility infrastructure. An Assembly panel is scheduled to consider the measure today.

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Assemblyman Wayne DeAneglo's bill establishes a commission to be known as the "Energy Infrastructure Study Commission." The panel will consist of 20 members. It would be the duty of the task force to study and make findings and recommendations to the Governor and to the Legislature, within one year after its organizational meeting, with regard to utilities.

"When utilities are physically doing the best that they can we want to assist them in a little bit more preventative maintenance," explains DeAngelo. "We need to talk about communication with customers and local elected officials who are the first line of defense when you're out of power."

The commission would meet monthly meeting and shall hold at least three public hearings for the purpose of taking testimony regarding matters before the commission. There would be one hearing in each geographic subdivision of New Jersey: Northern, Central, and Southern.

"We'll look at where we can hold the utilities accountable for failure on their part and where we can look to assist the utilities on having a better infrastructure," explains the Assemblyman. "We need to discuss these problems now so that we don't have the same scenario that we had with Sandy."

Areas Of Focus For The Panel

The Commission would be charged with offering:

  • Recommendations on improving the State's electric utility infrastructure
  • A comparative analysis of reinforcing or improving existing power lines and utility poles versus the installation of underground electric distribution lines
  • The feasibility of installing all or majority of electric distribution lines in the State underground
  • The costs to ratepayers, taxpayers, and municipalities associated with moving above-ground electric distribution lines underground
  • Methods for prevention of electric transmission and distribution line damage caused by fallen trees and excessive winds
  • The effect of municipal tree maintenance plans and electric public utility vegetation management programs upon electric utility infrastructure reliability and recommendations for improving such plans and programs to improve reliability
  • Problems, including the location of substations in flood plains or low lying areas, associated with vulnerabilities to electric utility infrastructure
  • Recommendations for the utilization of technology to better communicate electric service outages from customers experiencing an outage to the appropriate electric utility
  • Feasibility concerning the implementation of new technologies to improve electric utility service reliability and alternative methods for the transmission and distribution of electricity
  • Recommendations for legislation to facilitate improvements to electric utility transmission and distribution reliability, including recommendations for legislation concerning the installation of underground electric distribution lines and the utilization of new technologies to improve reliability.