In a Law360 article discussing New Jersey’s response to Hurricane Sandy, Kenneth Sheehan, Director of Genova Burns Giantomasi Webster’s Energy & Utility Law Practice Group, commented on the major steps the state Board of Public Utilities has taken to prepare electric companies for future large-scale outages and to review their costs for recent storms and upgrades. Among the BPU’s responses was a January order and follow-up requirements to improve the performance of power providers during and after storms. The Board also directed electric companies to develop and refine systems for tracking vegetation-related outages, including vegetation outside of rights of way, according to Sheehan.
“For the first time, the Board is explicitly noting that vegetation outside the right of way may also be a factor and risk to overhead distribution lines,” he said. In another important move, the BPU has established so-called generic proceedings outside of its usual rate review process to examine electric companies’ costs from Sandy and Hurricane Irene in 2011, as well as the expense of protecting utility infrastructure from future storms.