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Pallone Blasts JCP&L’s “Abysmal” Power Restoration Response & Its Lack of Communication with Customers

Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) today blasted Jersey Central Power and Light (JCP&L), a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corporation, for its “abysmal” response to electric power outages in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Isaias.  As of 4 pm yesterday, more than 289,000 people in JCP&L’s territory remained without power, and it may take until August 11 — a full week after the storm — to restore power to most of those customers.  In a letter to FirstEnergy President and Chief Executive Officer Charles Jones and JCP&L President Jim Fakult, Pallone demanded answers on why the company continues to fail to adequately prepare for and respond to major storms.  

“This is simply unacceptable, especially given summer temperatures and the fact that many people are working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Pallone wrote in his letter.  “It is particularly egregious that JCP&L is once again failing to communicate with its customers in any meaningful way.  The company is simply not sharing enough information with customers that they can use to plan accordingly for the coming days.  The company’s failure to communicate in real time with meaningful, accurate information has been an ongoing problem and only seems to get worse with each passing storm season.” 

Unfortunately, Pallone said unreliable service, prolonged outages and lack of communication are nothing new for the company.  Last year, a series of powerful thunderstorms moved through New Jersey and caused multi-day outages throughout the state.  In 2018, another series of storms resulted in a similar situation. 

“JCP&L has had major issues with reliability and service for more than a decade,” Pallone continue in his letter.  “The law grants JCP&L an exclusive monopoly over territory within New Jersey in return for providing adequate and reliable electric service at just and reasonable prices to the population within that territory.  I remain concerned that FirstEnergy and JCP&L are failing to meet their obligations under both the Federal Power Act and state law.  I hope that you will provide a response that demonstrates that your company is capable of fulfilling its obligation to serve.”

Pallone demanded answers from the company executives no later than August 21 on the root causes of JCP&L’s failure to adequately prepare for and respond to the major storms that have become a fixture in our state in recent years, including:

  • JCP&L continues to suffer more damage and slower recovery times than other utilities.  What investments has JCP&L made in resiliency and why?  Provide a detailed list of the most significant investments and a justification for each.
  • For many years, critics have claimed that JCP&L’s reliability issues have more to do with management issues that won’t be solved by building more infrastructure.  These issues include the quantity of personnel available to respond to an outage and the adequacy of the personnel dispatched for outage restoration, as well as the communication processes to establish the location of the outage, among other things.  Since Hurricane Sandy, what changes in management and operations has JCP&L made to address these matters?  What steps will JCP&L commit to in order to address the problematic response to Isaiah? 
  • How much financial and employee effort has JCP&L put into its vegetation management program in New Jersey since Hurricane Sandy?  
  • Local officials throughout the region continue to complain justifiably about JCP&L’s lack of communication with customers and government officials during these outages.  How does JCP&L intend to address the concerns raised by state and local officials as well as customers regarding its inadequate communication efforts?  
To read the full letter, click HERE.

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