Lawmaker Introduces Bill That Would Let Trained Municipal Workers Clear Downed Powerlines

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State Sen. Kevin O'Toole

State Sen. Kevin O’Toole

TRENTON — State Sen. Kevin O’Toole introduced legislation earlier this week that would allow certain trained municipal employees to immediately clear utility lines during emergencies, such as Superstorm Sandy.

“After Superstorm Sandy, too many roads and properties remained blocked or closed by debris for far too long, while communities waited for utility companies to take care of business,” said O’Toole (R-Bergen, Essex, Morris, Passaic). “This measure will assure that public workers can without delay save lives, property and utility infrastructure, and re-open road access to motorists free of charge to taxpayers.”

O’Toole authored this initiative after a recent meeting with New Jersey BPU President Robert Hanna and mayors from his District 40. This bill requires public utility companies to submit to the BPU a plan for their response to a major emergency event. It requires utility companies to:

1) Train each municipal emergency management coordinator and any public works employee to receive the necessary certification to move/clear disconnected, above-ground power lines;

2) Defend the municipality and trained employees against any related civil claims;

3) Reimburse a municipality at a rate of at least half the hourly rate of certified municipal employees for the time spent moving and protecting power lines.

“Residents and communities should not be held hostage, waiting for utility companies to respond,” O’Toole concluded. “This proactive approach will expedite a return to normalcy after a disaster.”

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