Grapevine: Powerful premonition

November 05. 2012 3:00AM

By NJBIZ STAFF

The BPU was still in the process of evaluating the performance of the state's utilities during last year's storms when Hurricane Sandy barreled ashore last week, but at least one recommendation the board is considering seems to be on target.

The BPU commissioned the firm Emergency Preparedness Partnerships to review the emergency response procedures in place at the state's electrical utilities in the wake of Hurricane Irene and the October 2011 snowstorm. One of EPP's recommendations was that all utilities should have plans in place for outages of up to 75 percent of their customers. That recommendation now looks quite prescient.

Cases in point: In New Jersey, Sandy knocked out power to about 71 percent of PSEG's customer base, and nearly 85 percent of JCP&L's customers.

For their part, neither utility objected to the new requirement, though they didn't exactly embrace it, either. In written responses to the EPP report, both utilities suggested a working group be formed to discuss the recommendation.

Sandy gets the cold shoulder

The Rutgers University Cell and DNA Repository — known as RUCDR Infinite Biologics — was designed to withstand the worst Mother Nature could offer. Last week, Hurricane Sandy put that design to an unprecedented test.

The center stores and processes millions of irreplaceable genetic samples, used for research by the government, academics, nonprofits and the life sciences industry. Those samples need to be kept frozen and their status needs to be tracked using a computer system, meaning electricity is mission critical.

"Although the RUCDR was in the direct path of Hurricane Sandy, not a single sample, freezer, tank or instrument was compromised," according to an RUCDR statement provided by Rutgers spokesman Ed Tate.

Main power was lost for less than 24 hours, Tate said, but backup systems and generators worked according to plan. In fact, while most of the state was still recovering, RUCDR was already accepting new shipments of samples.

"The RUCDR received new samples and restored all commercial operations within 24 hours of the storm, and we are now focused on helping our staff who have sustained personal losses during the storm," he said.

To 'hell' and back with Obama

Trust a disaster to bring together strange political bedfellows.

During last week's storm, you had Chris Christie, who's been on the road for Mitt Romney at least as often as he's been in his home state, saying wonderful things about Barack Obama — the same guy who Christie just the week before said was stumbling about in the dark, searching for the "light switch of leadership," whatever that is.

Still, that's the way of the world. New Jersey may have been hardest hit by the storm, and is in dire need of immediate federal aid to get things up and running again. What surprised us even more than Christie's overt display of bipartisanship, however, was hearing the governor jokingly echo last year's warning to "get the hell off the beach," and then hearing Obama take a turn doing his best Jersey impersonation, saying the federal government would be there to help people "who were supposed to get the hell out, but didn't." Could threats by the president to take the bat out on John Boehner be next, or is that far-too-wishful thinking?

Taking the bat out on Corzine

If you didn't get the Oct. 31 Wall Street Journal or don't read past the jumps, this one is for you. The Journal published a story about Edith O'Brien, the former assistant treasurer of MF Global, with the headline, "A year later, all eyes still on 'Edie,'" referencing her nickname. O'Brien exchanged e-mails with Jon Corzine related to MF Global accounts now subject to scrutiny by investigators; the Journal's story looks at how O'Brien won't cooperate unless she is shielded from prosecution.

But the most interesting tidbit was in the last two paragraphs of the story. The Journal reported that MF Global employees gathered for a holiday party at a Chicago bar, Billy Goat III, two months after the firm's bankruptcy filing. The event included "a piñata adorned with photos of Mr. Corzine," the Journal reported. "Workers pounded the piñata, filled with paper slips labeled 'IOU'."

The story ended noting O'Brien did not take a whack at the piñata.

Grapevine reports on the behind-the-scenes buzz in the business community. Contact Editor Sharon Waters at sharonw@njbiz.com.


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