For Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature, getting better service from New York’s utility companies is a matter of amending the law to increase penalties, including simplifying the process to revoke a franchise, after companies’ failure to restore electric power after Tropical Storm Isaias earlier this month.
For the utility companies, the job of restoring power to a large area isn’t as easy as state officials would persuade us to believe. It requires mobilizing work crews on short notice, getting personnel and equipment out in the field, and doing a potentially hazardous job amid fallen trees and live power lines.
The Aug. 4 storm left hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers without power, some for more than a week, and has led to growing criticism of major utility companies, including Con Edison and PSEG, for their lack of preparedness and poor response. Cuomo and lawmakers have slammed utility companies in recent days.
Lawmakers took utility providers to task at a virtual hearing last week, questioning state regulators and assailing power companies for leaving New Yorkers in the dark following the Aug. 4 storm.
One way not to stand up under grilling by lawmakers is to testify, as Consolidated Edison officials did, that they were caught off guard by the storm and blamed inaccurate forecasts for their failed response.
We acknowledge that turning the lights back on after a major storm is never easy, but hearing a big power company blame meteorologists for their failures and claiming they were surprised by a storm that anyone who follows the weather on TV, the internet and even the newspapers knows about, won’t cut it. New Yorkers left in the dark deserve transparency, not excuses.