In a press release today, GOP Assemblywomen Amy Handlin and Caroline Casagrande showed us how they can oversimplify complex issues by unequivocally saying “a thousand times NO” to a proposed rate increase by Jersey Central Power & Light.
There’s no question that JCP&L’s performance in the lead-up and aftermath to Hurricane Sandy was disastrous. From all accounts, customer communications and speed of response was the worst of all of the utilities serving New Jersey.
But as a publicly-traded utility, JCP&L deserves to make a fair profit, and they have an obligation to plow some of that profit back into infrastructure maintenance and improvements.
If Democrats had called for controls on the profit of a publicly-traded corporation, it would take the GOP about a half a nanosecond to accuse them of being Socialists.
Utilities are highly regulated. Yet the Republican Tea Party mantra is to eliminate regulation and let the “free market” take care of things. Handlin’s and Casagrande’s statements are simplistic at best and disingenuous.
Some of the questions that need to be asked of JCP&L are: Has it invested enough in redundancy and resilience of the power distribution infrastructure? How much of its Sandy failure is due to insufficient investment and how much is due to mismanagement? How much of the problem is due to the BPU’s driving of how the utilities operate?
Of course, the status does not have to remain quo. There are alternatives to the way power can be generated and distributed in the state. We could go back to the days where the utilities were owned and operated by the government. Even today, there are some small utilities that operate this way and their rates are generally lower. But hey, that’s Socialism.
Or, we could look forward. Forward to the day when power is not generated by multi-billion dollar plants that pollute our air and water, or leave radioactive waste for future generations to worry about. We could produce power closer to the consumer, by solar, wind, and geothermal plants distributed across the state, all interconnected by a highly redundant grid – similar to the way the Internet is resilient to local outages. Of course, that investment would not be looked upon kindly by Chris Christie’s Koch Brothers benefactors, but maybe a new governor would be more open to changing the status quo. She’d be labeled a Socialist because a radical change would truly result in “power to the people”, but at least the lights would stay on.