ASSEMBLY, No. 2427

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

219th LEGISLATURE

 

INTRODUCED FEBRUARY 3, 2020

 


 

Sponsored by:

Assemblyman  DANIEL R. BENSON

District 14 (Mercer and Middlesex)

Assemblyman  STERLEY S. STANLEY

District 18 (Middlesex)

Assemblywoman  CAROL A. MURPHY

District 7 (Burlington)

 

Co-Sponsored by:

Assemblywomen Vainieri Huttle, Dunn and McKnight

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     “The Reliability, Preparedness, and Storm Response Act”; requires public utilities to file certain information concerning emergency preparedness with BPU and increases certain penalties.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     As introduced.

  


An Act concerning emergency preparedness and supplementing Title 48 of the Revised Statutes and amending R.S.48-42.

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.    (New section)  Sections 1 through 6 of P.L.    , c.    (C.      ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill) shall be known and may be cited as the “Reliability, Preparedness, and Storm Response Act.”

 

     2.    (New section)  As used in sections 1 through 6 of P.L.    , c.    (C.      ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill):

     “Board” means the Board of Public Utilities or any successor agency.

     “Electric public utility” means a public utility, as that term is defined in R.S.48:2-13, that distributes electricity to end users within this State.

     “Public utility” means a public utilities as that term is defined in R.S.48:2-13.

 

     3.    (New section)  a.  Consistent with federal law, the board shall develop and enforce performance benchmarks for service reliability, service disruption preparedness, service restoration, and communications for electric public utilities conducting business in the State. The board shall require, no less than annually, periodic reliability performance reporting by the electric public utilities.

     b.    Consistent with federal law, the board shall develop and enforce standards for service reliability, service disruption preparedness, service restoration, and communications for public utilities conducting business in the State that are not electric public utilities. The board shall require, no less than annually, periodic reliability performance reporting by the public utilities subject to the standards developed pursuant to this section.

     c.     The board shall undertake a detailed and comprehensive study of public utility service reliability in this State. Within 24 months after the effective date of P.L.    , c.    (C.        ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), the board shall prepare a report of its study, including findings and recommendations, and shall provide a copy thereof to the Governor and, pursuant to section 2 of P.L.1991, c.164 (C.52:14-19.1), to the Legislature.

 

     4.    (New section)  a.  Each electric public utility conducting business in the State shall annually, on or before May 15, submit to the board an emergency response plan for review and approval. The emergency response plan shall be designed for the reasonably prompt restoration of service in the event of a widespread power outage in the service area of the electric public utility due to storms or other causes beyond the control of the electric public utility, and the provisions of the plan shall reflect the performance benchmarks established pursuant to subsection a. of section 3 of P.L.    , c.    (C.      ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill). The emergency response plan shall include, but not be limited to, the following:

     (1)   the identification of management staff responsible for electric public utility operations during an emergency;

     (2)   an explanation of the electric public utility’s system for communicating with customers during an emergency that extends beyond normal business hours and business conditions;

     (3)   a history, for the year ending April 30, of the electric public utility’s contacts with all customers that report or document to the electric public utility a need of essential electricity for medical reasons;

     (4)   the designation of electric public utility staff to communicate with local officials and relevant regulatory agencies;

     (5)   provisions regarding how the electric public utility will assure the safety of its employees and contractors;

     (6)   procedures for deploying electric public utility and mutual aid crews to work assignment areas;

     (7)   the designation and prioritization of areas where a power outage may result in the malfunctioning of septic systems or the loss of drinkable water due to customers’ use of electric well water pumps;

     (8)   strategies to mitigate potential flooding of substations constructed within flood hazard areas, as defined by the Department of Environmental Protection, to mitigate potential wind damage during storms, and to address vegetation management concerns; and

     (9)   the identification of supplies and equipment reasonably anticipated by the electric public utility to be needed during an emergency and the means of obtaining additional supplies and equipment.

     b.    After review of an electric public utility’s emergency response plan, the board may request that the electric public utility amend the plan.  If the board finds a material deficiency in the plan, the board may order the electric public utility to make modifications as it deems reasonably necessary to remedy the deficiency.

     c.     Any electric public utility failing to file its emergency response plan annually by May 15, may be fined $1,000 per day until an emergency response plan is filed.

 

     5.    (New section)  a.  The board shall have the authority to open an investigation to review:

     (1)   the performance of any electric public utility in restoring service during a widespread power outage in the electric public utility’s service area; and

     (2)   the communications of any electric public utility during a widespread power outage in the electric public utility’s service area.

     b.    If, after evidentiary hearings or other investigatory proceedings, the board finds that, as a result of the electric public utility’s failure to implement its emergency response plan, the length of the widespread outage was materially longer than it would have been but for the electric public utility’s failure or the electric public utility’s communications were materially less effective than they would have been but for the electric public utility’s failure, the board may impose a civil administrative penalty pursuant to section 7 of P.L.    ,       c.       (C.      ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).

 

     6.    (New section)  a.  The board shall require each public utility conducting business in the State that is not an electric public utility to annually submit to the board, on or before May 15th of each year, a service reliability plan and an emergency communications plan for the board’s review and approval. After review of a service reliability plan or an emergency communications plan submitted pursuant to this section, the board may order the submitting public utility to make modifications to a service reliability plan or an emergency communications plan as the board deems reasonably necessary to remedy any deficiency in the service reliability plan or the emergency communications plan.

     b.    (1)  A service reliability plan shall include, but not be limited to, standards established pursuant to subsection b. of section 3 of     P.L.    , c.    (C.      ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill) for the provision of safe and reliable service and the reasonably prompt restoration of service in the event of a service disruption in the service area of the public utility submitting the service reliability plan.

     (2)   An emergency communications plan shall include, but not be limited to, standards established pursuant to subsection b. of section 3 of     P.L.    , c.    (C.      ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill) for the public utility’s system for communicating with customers during and after an emergency that extends beyond normal business hours and a designation of public utility staff to communicate with local officials and relevant regulatory agencies.

     c.     (1)  For a public utility that submits a plan pursuant to this section, the board shall have the authority to open an investigation to review the public utility’s performance in restoring service during a service disruption in the utility’s service area or to review the communications of the public utility during a disruption of service in the utility’s service area.

     (2)   The board may impose a civil administrative penalty pursuant to section 7 of P.L.    , c.    (C.      ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill) if, after evidentiary hearings or other investigatory proceedings, the board finds that:

     (a)   as a result of the failure of the public utility to implement its service reliability plan, the duration of the service disruption was materially longer than it would have been but for the public utility’s failure; or

     (b)   as a result of the failure of the public utility to implement its emergency communications plan, the public utility’s communications were materially less effective than they would have been but for the public utility’s failure.

     d.    A public utility that is required to annually submit a service reliability plan and an emergency communications plan pursuant to this section, but fails to submit either plan by May 15, may be fined $1,000 per day until both required plans are filed.

 

     7.    R.S.48:2-42 is amended to read as follows:

     48:2-42.      [Any]  a.  Notwithstanding the provisions of any law, rule, regulation, or board order to the contrary, any person [or, public utility, or entity subject to the jurisdiction of the board that [shall fail] fails to perform the performance benchmarks developed in an applicable emergency response plan submitted pursuant to P.L.    , c.    (C.      ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), fails to meet standards in an applicable service reliability plan or in an applicable emergency communications plan submitted pursuant to section 6 of P.L.    , c.    (C.      ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), or fails to comply with [an] any law, rule, regulation, or order of the board [, except an order to resume service which has been discontinued,] shall be [subject to a penalty of one hundred dollars for every day during which the default continues. Any person or public utility that shall fail to comply with any order of the board directing the public utility to resume service which has been discontinued shall be subject to a penalty of two hundred and fifty dollars for every day during which such default continues. Such penalties shall be recovered in an action at law in the name of the state] liable for a civil administrative penalty not to exceed $25,000 for each violation, except that any maximum civil penalty may not exceed $2,000,000 for any related series of events. Each day during which the violation continues shall constitute an additional, separate, and distinct violation.

     b.    In addition to any civil administrative penalty imposed pursuant to subsection a. of this section, on any person, public utility, or entity subject to the jurisdiction of the board that fails to perform the performance benchmarks developed in an applicable emergency response plan submitted pursuant to P.L.    , c.    (C.      ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), or fails to meet standards in an applicable service reliability plan or in an applicable emergency communications plan submitted pursuant to section 6 of P.L.    , c.    (C.      ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), the board may direct an amount that shall be credited to ratepayers in accordance with the current rate design directly through bill credits or by refund check within 120 days after the date that the board issued the amount directed. The amount directed by the board shall not exceed $25,000 for each violation except that any maximum amount directed may not exceed $2,000,000 for any related series of events. Each day during which the violation continues shall constitute an additional, separate, and distinct violation. Any credits or refunds paid pursuant to this subsection shall not be recoverable from ratepayers.

     c.     Any civil administrative penalty or payment ordered by the board may be compromised by the board in an amount and with conditions the board deems appropriate. In determining the amount of the civil administrative penalty, the payment ordered by the board pursuant to this section, or the amount agreed upon in compromise, the board shall consider:

     (1)   the nature, circumstances, and gravity of the violation;

     (2)   the degree of the violator’s culpability;

     (3)   any history of prior violations;

     (4)   any good faith effort on the part of the violator in attempting to achieve compliance with performance benchmarks; and

     (5)   any other factors the board determines to be appropriate.

     d.    Pursuit of any remedy specified in this section shall not preclude the pursuit of any other remedy provided by any other law except, if the penalty amount set forth in any other law, rule, regulation, or board order is less than the amount set forth in this section, then amounts set forth in this section shall control. The distribution of civil administrative penalties ordered by the board shall be consistent with the prevailing language establishes in the provisions of the applicable law, rule, regulation, or board order.

     e.     Civil administrative penalties may be recovered, if necessary, in a summary proceeding pursuant to the “Penalty Enforcement Law of 1999,” P.L.1999, c.274 (C.2A:58-10 et seq.). The Superior Court shall have jurisdiction to enforce the provisions of the “Penalty Enforcement Law of 1999” in connection with this section.

     f.     Consistent with section 1 of P.L.1988, c.100 (C.48:2-21.14) any civil administrative penalty or payment imposed under this section shall not be recoverable from ratepayers.

(cf: R.S.48:2-42)

 

     8.    This act shall take effect on January 1 of the year following enactment, except that the board may take any anticipatory administrative action in advance as shall be necessary for the administration of this act.

STATEMENT

 

     This bill, known as “The Reliability, Preparedness, and Storm Response Act,” requires the Board of Public Utilities (“BPU”) to develop and enforce performance benchmarks for service reliability and communications for electric public utilities and requires electric public utilities to submit to the BPU a review of strategies to mitigate flooding of substations within flood zones.

     In addition, the bill requires all public utilities conducting business in the State to file a service reliability plan and an emergency communications strategic plan for review and approval by the BPU. After review of a public utility’s service reliability or communications plan, the BPU may order the public utility to make modifications as it deems reasonably necessary to remedy any deficiency.

     The BPU will have the authority to open an investigation to review the performance or communications of a public utility during an outage in the public utility’s service area. If the BPU finds that, as a result of the failure of a public utility to implement its service reliability plan or communications plan, the public utility’s performance was materially less effective, the BPU may impose a civil administrative penalty.

     This bill amends existing law to increase the civil penalties paid by all public utilities for lapses in service delivery, preparedness, and responsiveness in emergencies. Civil penalties will be increased from $100 a day to $25,000 for each violation, but penalties are not to exceed $2,000,000 for any series of related events. The “Board of Public Utilities Civil Penalty Fund” will be established in the BPU, into which all penalties collected will be deposited. The money in the fund will be used to increase public utilities’ service quality and reliability. Civil penalties will not be recoverable from ratepayers.