New York State utility regulators have told the management of the state's biggest electric utilities that an investigation into preparedness for, and response to, two early March snow storms is now underway. The storms caused more than 590 000 customers to lose power, some for as long as 10 days.
Governor Andrew Cuomo said that the state will hold the utilities accountable, and “we will take action to ensure that outages like the ones experienced in March do not happen again."
In a letter to CEOs, the Department of Public Service (DPS) said that it will investigate the companies' preparations and response to the severe weather, including their filed and approved emergency plans. The investigation will examine the performance of all seven major electric utilities in New York: Con Edison, National Grid, NYSEG, RG&E, Orange & Rockland, Central Hudson, and PSEG Long Island.
Four days after winter storm Riley hit the northeastern United States in early March, power has been restored to more than 280 000 New Yorkers. Even so, almost 75 000 customers were without power. The state’s regulatory authority noted the “prolonged nature of the outages” and “clear breakdowns in communication between utilities and customers” during and after the storm.
Elected officials also faulted management of New York State Electric and Gas for delays in restoring electric service to its customers. News reports said that the storm damage was so severe that utilities were not just repairing the system, but in many cases are actually rebuilding it.
The executive blamed three major factors for the severity of the damage to the utility’s distribution network: high winds with gusts to 70 mph; a wet and heavy snow that clung to trees and wires; and soil that had been saturated from storms which allowed many more trees to be toppled.