If anyone is surprised by the class action lawsuit filed this week against Jersey Central Power and Light, they don’t know a lot about what it means to be from Jersey or about human nature, either.
The suit, filed in state court Nov. 14, says the power supplier and its parent company, Ohio-based FirstEnergy Corp., failed to prepare for weather conditions; maintain its equipment; hire enough personnel while overstating its ability to restore power.
There are currently 20 plaintiffs, including Readington Township resident Britt Simon, a Somerville-based attorney, who filed the suit in Flemington.
No one is disputing Ron Morano, JCP&L’s spokesperson, statement: "Sandy was by far the largest and worst storm in the history of JCP&L and a catastrophic event for New Jersey.”
JCP&L handled more than 1.3 million outages with 8,500 linemen; 1,500 forestry workers and more than 12,000 workers from around the country who came to help, according to Morano.
“The damage to the JCP&L system far exceeded the damage that was experienced in (Tropical Storm) Irene and the October 2011 snowstorm combined,” he said.
Sandy obliterated more than twice as many utility poles and more than 500 additional transformers, leading to more than four times as many down trees, according to The Star-Ledger.
In a Letter to the Editor published in the Asbury Park Press, Michael L. Redpath of Toms River writes, “If JCP&L had just provided reliable information a week or so ago, many people would have planned differently for how they have managed their own lives in the midst of this catastrophe. Instead, we continue to be unnecessary addition to strained relief resources because we can’t get a straight storm from JCP&L.”
In the meantime, the utility company’s poor performance has officials from several towns discussing how to operate a municipal-based utility.
Residents in two Morris County towns, Madison and Butler, were without electricity for a shorter amount of time because they operate their own utilities.
In Madison, the borough planned ahead and hired four out-of-state crews at a cost of about $20,000 per day to get back online in six days, according to Michael Piano, electric utility superintendent.
"I just want to know what our options are so we're not so vulnerable in the next storm," Summit Mayor Ellen Dickson told the Star-Ledger of Newark. "Maybe when their people aren't busy we can hire them to examine our trees or the age of our transformers or other ways we can protect them that we haven't thought of."
Only nine municipalities run their own electrical utilities, including Lavallette, Middletown, Park Ridge, Pemberton Borough, Seaside Heights, South River, and Vineland, according to Jim Jablonsky, executive director of the Public Power Association of New Jersey.