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Morris County official asks JCP&L head to resign after Isaias storm response

Daily Record (Morristown, NJ) logo Daily Record (Morristown, NJ) 8/10/2020 Jessie Gomez, Morristown Daily Record
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One week after Tropical Storm Isaias tore through the state, thousands remain without power. That's unacceptable, said Morris County Freeholder Tayfun Selen, who asked for Jersey Central Power & Light's CEO to step down.

The Chatham-based freeholder released a video that called for the resignation of Charles Jones, CEO of Ohio-based FirstEnergy, the parent company of JCP&L.

Selen also asked the company to refund customers for lost power in July and August.

"What we demand is [JCP&L] put more resources into the county," Selen said. "They have great resources; they should spend more time surveying the area and determining what utility poles are in jeopardy. We don't want to have to wait for the next storm."

The utility company serves roughly 1.1 million residents in northern and central New Jersey. Residents in Morris, Ocean and Union counties were among the most heavily affected by Tropical Storm Isaias.

On Monday, JCP&L spokesman Cliff Cole said power had been restored to more than 785,200 of its customers — more than 99% of the 788,000 customers affected by the storm. Power to customers in the northern and central regions was expected to be restored by midnight Monday.

"Morris County was among the hardest-hit areas, and that's where we usually concentrate our efforts, but the effects were so severe from the storm," Cole said. "We saw downed trees, downed power lines and lots of safety hazards for our crews, which we assessed within the first 24 hours after the storm." 

Customers can file a claim regarding their July and August utility bills, but losses and damages resulting from natural events, such as tropical storms, are not typically reimbursed as part of the company's claims process.

Selen said he is making this his mission and will try to get other elected officials on his side. 

As of Sunday, Morris County had the highest number of JCP&L customers in the state without power. About 6,700 Morris County customers remained without power on Sunday, according to a company press release. In the video, Selen also pointed to the company's $380 million in revenue in 2020 and pressured the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to intervene.

"People who need electricity for their medical equipment were put at risk. Untold amounts of milk and groceries have gone bad. A real hardship for seniors on a fixed income or a single mom working multiple minimum wage jobs to make ends meet," Selen said.

He also called on the company to improve its electrical infrastructure throughout Morris County. The utility has invested $1 billion on capital projects since 2016 to strengthen its electric grid. During Superstorm Sandy, Selen and his family were among the 2.7 million JCP&L customers without power at the peak of the storm, and it took more than two weeks for it to be fully restored. 

Complaints about the state’s utility companies, specifically JCP&L, aren't new. During Hurricane Irene, almost 930,000 homes and businesses lost power, some for more than a week, in August 2011. In 2018, the state issued its Board of Public Utilities Report and said JCP&L needed to improve its communication with customers and its storm response. The company relocated its customer call centers to New Jersey. 

Infrastructure upgrades since Superstorm Sandy were meant to boost and protect JCP&L's electric infrastructure, miles of overhead wires, transformers and substations that provide electricity to homes and businesses. In 2015, the company was slated to invest $267 million to improve its service areas. That same year, the company submitted a petition to construct a nearly 7-mile, 230-kV transmission line between its existing Whippany Substation in East Hanover and its existing Montville Substation in Montville. The project is expected to be completed by the end of the year

a man smiling for the camera: Newly elected Morris County Freeholder Tayfun Selen calls for the resignation of JCP&L CEO Charles Jones and electric bill refunds for July and August © PMOR Newly elected Morris County Freeholder Tayfun Selen calls for the resignation of JCP&L CEO Charles Jones and electric bill refunds for July and August

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In February, the nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy ranked New Jersey’s two major electric utilities, PSE&G and JCP&L, among the worst in the nation for taking action to help customers cut energy use. JCP&L serves 1.13 million customers in 13 counties, including large stretches of the Jersey Shore, and was ranked 48th in the report. 

"Enough is enough. Every time there is a storm, Morris County residents lose power for days. JCP&L, it's time to get your act together. New leadership. New strategy," Selen said. 

As of Sunday, utility crews had replaced more than 53 miles of wire, repaired or replaced more than 550 poles and 2,500 cross arms and worked through more than 700 closed roads to repair service throughout the region. JCP&L plans to perform post-storm inspections across its 13-county service area to identify additional damage to wire, cross arms, insulators and other equipment.

FirstEnergy oversees 10 electric distribution companies and is one of the nation's largest investor-owned electric systems, serving customers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, West Virginia, Maryland and New York. The company's transmission subsidiaries operate more than 24,000 miles of transmission lines that connect the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions.

Jessie Gomez is a local reporter for DailyRecord.com and NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

Email: jgomez@gannettnj.com

Twitter: @jessiereport 

This article originally appeared on Morristown Daily Record: Morris County official asks JCP&L head to resign after Isaias storm response

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