One year ago Superstorm Sandy devastated New Jersey. Though we were prepared, no one predicted the immense destruction she would bring.
Sandy knocked out power to more than 1.7 million of our customers and caused extensive damage to our electric and gas infrastructure. Many of our critical substations and switching stations were out of commission for the first time in their history because of the storm surge. In our service territory alone, 48,000 trees had to be trimmed or removed and 2,400 utility poles repaired or replaced. Every community in New Jersey was affected.
At PSE&G, we have spent the last year making significant improvements that will help us restore service more quickly in the aftermath of the next storm. We’ve continued rewiring our distribution system, adding lines that can carry 69,000 volts of electricity for added capacity and reliability. That new equipment is being installed on stronger poles with lightning protection and fiber optic wires that improve communication between substations. We’ve installed new electrical equipment in substations on concrete slabs that are higher off the ground, giving it greater protection from flood water. We’ve also made agreements that will ensure we have access to more help in the aftermath of a storm, working with labor to ensure access to local, skilled workers and updating our mutual aid affiliations so that we can call on workers from farther away — an important consideration when you consider the wide swath of damage storms like Sandy cause.
We’ve ramped up our pre-storm messaging across all channels, with a focus on helping you understand what to expect from an event, how you can prepare and stay safe, and how you can best communicate with us. We launched Millers, which allows our customers to opt in for text messages as well as E-mail notifications about outages in their area and service restoration. We urge all our customers to sign up for MyAlerts and to update contact information with us now, before the next storm hits. Meanwhile, more communications upgrades are on the way. By this spring, customers will be able to report outages via text message, too. And, very soon, customers will be able to get localized outage information online and through their smart phones.
Although we all hope never to see another storm like Sandy, more extreme weather is likely. We have put forth a plan to harden our infrastructure and increase resiliency so that we can withstand these new threats. Called “Energy Strong,” our proposal would allow us to protect more than 40 utility installations from storm surges, strengthen distribution lines, make the electric grid smarter and thereby easier to restore customers, and modernize our gas distribution system so that it’s less susceptible to water.
Now is the time to make these investments. Annual bills for residential heating customers have dropped nearly 40 percent over the past four years, and thanks to our proximity to the Marcellus Shale and prudent management of our pipeline contracts, we’re able to cut bills even further, with substantial credits this November and December. The continued good news for gas customers, combined with steady electric bills and transitional charges that are set to expire, is that we can make the critical investments outlined in “Energy Strong” while keeping bills stable.
Sandy challenged our people and our systems like never before. While we are proud of our performance during restoration, we know our customers expect more – and we will continue to work hard to meet your expectations.
#b#From Tri-State Transportation#/b#
A year after Superstorm Sandy devastated the tri-state region, we are seeing a stronger regional vision of resiliency emerge. The storm exposed our region’s vulnerabilities, especially those of aging and fiscally-challenged transit systems. Preparation for the next storm requires more investment in transit and policies that encourage multi-modal mobility.
Addressing the vulnerabilities of our transit systems should be a key priority for all local, state and federal elected leaders in the years ahead. Our region lost hundreds of millions of dollars in economic productivity and revenue because transit was not running. Thanks to the support of our Congressional and Senate leaders, the tri-state region received significant federal recovery funds. Now it is incumbent on state and local leaders to find resources for the remaining needs. Governor Cuomo of New York, Governor Christie of New Jersey, and Governor Malloy of Connecticut must ensure that the region’s transit agencies — particularly the MTA, NJ Transit, and PATH — will be able to tackle these challenges in future capital programs.
A more resilient transit system cannot be built in a year; it’s a multi-year, multi-billion dollar effort that requires continued and dedicated capital investment. We hope the region’s elected leaders will find the resources to address those needs identified in the transit agencies’ existing and future capital programs.
– Veronica Vanterpool
Vanterpool is executive director of Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a non-profit working toward a more balanced, transit-friendly and equitable transportation system (www.tstc.org).