Photo Courtesy of Emil Cohen/NY City Council
Tropical Storm Isaias caused widespread damage across Queens.
By Michael V. Cusenza
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (both D-N.Y.) recently fired off a letter to Consolidated Edison CEO John McAvoy expressing concern over the prolonged power outages facing hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers after Tropical Storm Isaias.
“While the impact from the storm resulted in substantial and widespread property damage, dangerous road conditions and closures, downed trees, and power outages across the Northeast, it is unacceptable that thousands of New Yorkers are still without electricity one week after the weather event, and will potentially remain without power for even longer,” Schumer and Gillibrand wrote.
The pols also asked for answers to the following questions related to those recommendations and their implementation, as well as concerns that have been raised about Con Edison’s response:
- When was the initial request for mutual assistance placed to the Regional Mutual Assistance Group and how did you determine the appropriate number of crews to request?
- What were the levels of your internal capabilities pre-storm? Minimum Staffing Matrices are stipulated in your ERP that prescribes the initial resources required for all storm roles, based upon the predicted impact of anticipated storm or storm-like conditions and your respective incident response level. Please describe how those matrices were used to develop mutual assistance requests.
- There have been reports that communication with municipal officials continues to have problems as Con Edison community liaisons at times did not have the most current information themselves. Communication to customers was reportedly even worse as texts and emails with Estimated Times of Restoration (ETR) were wrong; online outage maps listed erroneous information (e.g., some houses without power were listed as resolved or not listed at all); criticism from on-the-ground Con Edison line personnel to customers stated that the lack of progress in an affected area was due to needed action by municipalities; and daily dry ice locations were only posted on Con Edison’s website and in press releases but not communicated directly to customers, resulting in many showing up at wrong locations. What accounted for these continued communication issues?
- With regard to vegetation management, there have been reports that some people had been trapped inside of their homes with live downed wires for days, with only a wire guard at their location but no crews. Please explain why those locations with live downed wires were not prioritized?
- Pursuant to the Storm Hardening Plan submitted to the Department of Public Service in Septembe 2019 as recommended by the PSC, Con Edison detailed critical future storm hardening measures to repair and replace aging electrical infrastructure that was deemed to see historically higher instances of outages. What is the status of this work? Is there a correlation between the identified sites and the hardest-hit outage locations?
Additionally this week, Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Howard Beach) sent a letter to PSEG Long Island urging the utility to announce a plan or provide a protocol for immediate reimbursement for her constituents—residents and businesses—who were left without power following thetropical storm. Pheffer Amato stated in her letter that many residents and businesses lost hundreds if not thousands of dollars in perishable food and medication due to PSEG’s failures of informing them when the power would return.