New York commission to address ‘dysfunctional utility system’

Hurricane Sandy, which made landfall near Atlantic City, N.J., on Oct. 29 as a post-tropical cyclone, showed that there is “a dysfunctional utility system,” in New York, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

The governor signed an executive order on Nov. 13 to establish a commission under the Moreland Act that will investigate the response, preparation and management of the state’s power utility companies with major storms over the past two years, including Hurricanes Sandy and Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.

The governor said it was time to take a hard look at the effectiveness of the “labyrinth” of power-related agencies in the state.

The commission will review all actions taken by the power companies before and after these emergencies and make recommendations to reform and modernize oversight, regulation and management of the state’s power delivery services, Cuomo’s statement added.

Also, the commission will make recommendations to reform the overlapping responsibilities and missions of the New York Power Authority (NYPA), Long Island Power Authority, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the state Public Service Commission.

The commission, whose members include Robert Abrams, former attorney general of New York, and John Dyson, former NYPA chairman, will have the power to subpoena and examine witnesses under oath.

“As evidenced by Hurricane Sandy, the existing labyrinth of regulatory bodies, state agencies and authorities, and quasi-governmental bodies has contributed to a dysfunctional utility system,” the statement added.

Cuomo said in the statement that New York has experienced over the past two years some of the worst natural disasters in the state’s history. “As we adjust to the reality of more frequent major weather incidents, we must study and learn from these past experiences to prepare for the future,” he said.

According to the executive order, Sandy caused massive power outages throughout Long Island, New York City, Westchester, Rockland and surrounding counties, affecting more than two million customers, including 90% of customers on Long Island.

LIPA said on Nov. 13 that more than 1.1 million outages have been restored.

“Although LIPA power is available, up to 8,000 customers in Nassau and Suffolk and 27,000 in the Rockaways are unable to safely receive power without customer repairs,” LIPA said.

A National Grid USA spokesperson told TransmissionHub on Nov. 14: “Right now, our focus remains on helping the communities we serve recover and rebuild from the devastation brought by Hurricane Sandy and the Nor’easter. We will cooperate fully with [the] Moreland Commission, and look forward to the dialogue.”

Ken Daly, National Grid USA’s president in New York, said in a Nov. 13 statement that while the company’s core expertise is in delivering natural gas to New York City and Long Island, its commitment goes beyond that to help communities recover from the disaster.

The National Grid plc subsidiary said it has worked with local officials and community agencies to provide food, water, clothing, blankets, dry ice and other essential household items to customers in the neighborhoods within Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens and Long Island that were hardest hit by the storms.

According to a Nov. 13 statement posted on New York State Electric & Gas‘ (NYSEG) website, with power restoration work complete in NYSEG’s downstate service areas, NYSEG and Rochester Gas and Electric (RG&E) have sent 70 electric line crews and numerous support personnel to help LIPA and Consolidated Edison Company of New York (Con Edison) restore service in areas hit hard by Hurricane Sandy and Winter Storm Athena.

NYSEG also has 15 gas fitters and three supervisors helping National Grid restore natural gas service in the Rockaways (Queens), according to the company.

NYSEG and RG&E are Iberdola SA‘s two regulated utilities in New York.

Con Edison, a subsidiary of Consolidated Edison (NYSE:ED), said on Nov. 12 that the largest customer restoration effort in the company’s history is wrapping up.

“Since Hurricane Sandy and a Nor’easter pounded New York City and Westchester County company crews and thousands of utility workers from around the country restored electricity to more than 1 million customers,” Con Edison said. “This morning, the last customers in Westchester affected by Hurricane Sandy, whose equipment could be restored, were getting their electricity back.”

About Corina Rivera-Linares 2843 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares, chief editor for TransmissionHub, has covered the U.S. power industry for the past 14 years. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines. She can be reached at clinares@endeavorb2b.com.