Assembly Passes Bill To Require Utilities To Update Gov’t Officials During Disasters

Assemblyman Peter J. Barnes III

Assemblyman Peter J. Barnes III

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrat Peter J. Barnes III to establish guidelines for service providers and the state to disseminate information in future weather emergencies was passed by the full Assembly.

“During Sandy, thousands of residents were without gas, power and other services for days and, also, without any information on when any of these services would be restored,” said Barnes (D-Middlesex).

The bill (A-3475) would create the Disaster Information Access Act that would require certain providers of electric, natural gas, and water service provider to report service interruptions that occur in connection with a major catastrophic event to the State Office of Emergency Management and to mayors or other municipal chief executives, as appropriate. It also would direct the information to governing bodies of affected towns and county freeholders of affected counties.

Under the bill, the provider must, within 24 hours of a major catastrophic event, report information pertaining to service interruptions occurring in connection with the event within the provider’s operating area. The report would include information in connection with: (1) the provider’s work to restore interrupted service, including plans for ongoing work in all the affected areas and (2) factors that may hinder or delay restoration of service.

The provides that “Major catastrophic event” is defined to mean a natural or humanly caused occurrence arising from conditions beyond the control of the provider, including, but not limited to, a terrorist attack, thunderstorm, tornado, hurricane, flood, heat wave, snowstorm or ice storm, or an earthquake, which results in a sustained interruption of service to at least 10 percent of the customers in an operating area or 10 percent of the customers of a municipality or county located in an operating area; or the declaration of a state of emergency or disaster by the Governor or by the President.

The measure was approved 78-0. It will now go to the Senate for further consideration.

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