Albany pols to grill utilities on handling of recent blackouts

The New York State Legislature is holding a joint hearing to grill utilities to answer for failing to quickly restore power to hundreds of thousands of residents left in the dark after Hurricane Isaias.

“Across the state we saw utilities fail and people lose power. Today, we still have thousands and thousands of people waiting for their power to be restored with no clear end in sight,”  Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins (D-Yonkers) said in a statement Saturday.

“This is unacceptable. The Senate will be announcing hearings shortly to get to the bottom of what went wrong and why the response was so slow.”

Committees overseeing utilities for the Senate and Assembly will conduct a joint hearing the week of Aug. 17, lawmakers said.

The major utilities asked to testify will include Con Edison, PSEG Long Island, Central Hudson Gas&Electric, and Verizon among others, lawmakers said.

“We were told by the utilities that things would change after Superstorm Sandy [in 2012],” said Senate Environmental Conservation Chairman Todd Kaminsky (D-Nassau), who represents beach communities still without power and will co-chair the hearing.

“It hasn’t.”

Fumed Kaminsky, “Not only are thousands of people still in the dark, but they can’t even get basic information from the utilities about their service.”

Con Edison Emergency repair trucks
Con Edison Emergency repair trucks are seen Friday on West 146 & Frederick Douglass Blvd.Robert Miller

The power failure is compounded by the coronavirus pandemic. Kaminsky noted that more people who now work from home to help curb the killer bug lost their internet service needed to conduct business.

Earlier this week, Gov. Cuomo, who called on the state Public Service Commission to probe the utilities’ failed performance said, “We don’t contract for sunny-day service. We contract for every-day service.”

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands remained blacked out Saturday, four days after Hurricane Isaias tore up the Eastern seaboard.

Con Edison and PSEG reported electricity out in a total of 322,056 households across New York and New Jersey, outages maps show.

More than half of the outages were on Long Island, where 197,532 PSEG customers were without power, mostly in the western portion of the peninsula. The Hamptons were largely spared, with just 32 affected customers from Sag Harbor to Montauk.

In New York City and Westchester County, 84,698 Con Ed customers were kicking off the weekend without electricity, with wide swaths of outages in Queens and the Bronx. Manhattan was the only borough with no reports of downed power.

The East Bronx had 4,216 households still in the dark. More than 3,000 were without power in the Whitestone, Queens area, and 3,100 customers in and around East New York reported no electricity.

On Tuesday, after Isaias brought 70 mph winds and torrential rain to the New York City area, Con Ed recorded a total of 257,000 customers without power, the company said, it’s second-largest power outage in history after Hurricane Sandy. At one point, more than 1.4 million New Jersey customers were also without electricity.

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