With tens of thousands of Burlington County residences without power due to damages from Tropical Storm Isaias on Aug. 4, Burlington County Freeholder Director Felicia Hopson is calling on New Jersey regulators to put a freeze on all rate adjustments until an investigation is completed into reoccurring outages and repeated restoration delays.
“Everyone in Burlington County is thankful that we made it through Tuesday’s storm without any loss of life or serious injuries, but once again we’re now faced with a situation where thousands of our residents are without electricity, with the possibility that some will have to wait days before it is restored,” Hopson said in a prepared statement on Aug. 5. “This is not the first time we’ve seen this scenario. It’s become far too commonplace, and we need a thorough review and assessment of how utility companies respond to major storms, as well as the actions they take to prepare for them and harden their infrastructure.”
Hopson said the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) should thoroughly investigate utilities’ storm preparation and response, both to Isaias and other major storms, and release its findings within 90 days.
The director also called for the board to order a halt to any rate adjustments pending the completion of the investigation and any remediation efforts the probe identifies. The freeze should also extend to any costs passed onto customers for infrastructure upgrades.
“Burlington County homeowners and businesses should not have to pay more just to ensure they receive reliable electricity service,” Hopson said in the statement. “Likewise, they shouldn’t have to wait for days for their power to be restored because their utility hasn’t taken the steps necessary to harden their infrastructure and identify and remediate potential problem spots.”
More than 56,000 properties in Burlington County were still without power on the morning of Aug. 5 due to damages from the storm the previous day, including close to 10,000 customers in Willingboro, nearly 8,000 in Pemberton Township and around 5,000 in Medford, according to utility reports.
Hopson said those areas have previously faced significant waits for power restoration after major storms and that several long-term care facilities with vulnerable seniors are among the properties still awaiting restoration, according to the statement.
“Some 86,000 homes and businesses were in the dark on [Aug. 4] right after the storm. That’s close to the same number that were out here in 2012 when Superstorm Sandy hit. Something is not right when that’s the case, and we deserve answers from the BPU and our utilities,” the director said in the statement.