Report critical of utility storm response

Posted at: 01/07/2013 6:00 PM
Updated at: 01/07/2013 6:27 PM
By: Beth Wurtmann

ALBANY - Governor Andrew Cuomo said Monday that it's time to overhaul the way utilities are regulated in the State.

"This is impossible for the State. For anyone. For the consumer," he told reporters during a press conference at the Capitol.

Calls for change came as the Moreland Commission issued its findings in the on the utilities response to Superstorm Sandy. The report recommended giving the Public Service Commission new teeth to enforce the rules.

"I think you need a system that is more accountable I think you need incentive and you need sanctions and you need a real ability to terminate the relationship otherwise you don't have a sanction," Cuomo said.

The Commission also recommended scrapping the Long Island Power Authority in favor of privatization, finding that after widespread power outages to over two million customers, it took up to 21 days to restore it.

The report said when Tropical Storm Irene knocked out power to about one million people, it took up to nine days to get everyone back on line. National Grid workers played a role in both responses.

"It has taught things about life, living with your wife without lights and gas is not an easy thing to do, just thought I'd put it in the notes, cause I'll never forget it," joked Rev. Floyd Flake, a Nassau County member of the Moreland Commission. 

Aside from some moments of levity, former New York Attorney General Robert Abrams, who co-chaired the Commission, said the State needs to be able to regulate and terminate utilities that don't respond to storms fast enough.

"When you're dealing with a monopoly then you can't expect that monopoly to just run roughshod over the public interest," he said.

In response to the report, a PSC spokesman said, "we will review the Commission's report and work to address its concerns regarding oversight in order to protect customers."

A National Grid spokesman told NewsChannel 13 that it is proud of its response to Sandy in assisting LIPA, and will also consider the commission's recommendations to improve service.