To protect residents from being billed directly for utility infrastructure replacement costs when their homes or property are damaged by a natural disaster, Sen. Jim Holzapfel and Assemblymen Dave Wolfe and Greg McGuckin have introduced legislation (S-3064) prohibiting utility companies from charging customers for the cost of such upgrades.
Legislation sponsored by Holzapfel, Wolfe and McGuckin would prohibit utility companies from charging customers for utility infrastructure replacement costs when their homes or property are damaged by a natural disaster. (Flickr)
“Recovery from Sandy has been a long, drawn out process for so many who live at the Shore, especially those on the barrier islands who had to elevate their houses,” said Holzapfel. “It’s unfathomable that these homeowners are being charged for utility infrastructure work.”
Following Superstorm Sandy, many Shore homeowners were either required or chose to elevate their houses. As a result, JCP&L had to modify utility poles to conform to the elevated homes. The utility company charged residents directly, some as much as $20,000, for the work.
“Charging a homeowner thousands of dollars to replace or modify a utility pole is wrong,” said Wolfe. “The utility company owns the equipment. It’s their responsibility to maintain it. Sending residents who already have endured so many challenges and hardships a huge bill for a catastrophic event they had no control over adds insult to injury.”
“It’s nearly three years after Sandy and so many of our residents are still waiting to get back into their homes,” said McGuckin. “In many cases, the reconstruction has been too time consuming and tedious due to red tape. Imagine having your home finally rebuilt, but the utility company refuses to turn on the electricity because it hasn’t received payment for a bill they never should have sent in the first place.”
Homeowners, who have been charged anywhere from $5,000 to more than $20,000 for the modifications, told the legislators JCP&L will not turn on the electricity to their rebuilt elevated homes unless their bill is paid. Without electricity, a town will not issue a certificate of occupancy.
Under the measure, if a homeowner provides certification from a licensed contractor that reconstructive work was performed to fix damage from a natural disaster on their property, a public utility cannot charge that customer directly for the costs of necessary upgrades to its infrastructure. Those costs may be recovered in a base rate case which would require Board of Public Utility (BPU) approval.