Long Island’s utility provider, PSEG Long Island, is being investigated by the New York State Department of Public Service, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced two days after Tropical Storm Isaias hit the region.
“We know that severe weather is our new reality, and the reckless disregard by utility companies to adequately plan for Tropical Storm Isaias left tens of thousands of customers in the dark, literally and figuratively,” Cuomo said. “Their performance was unacceptable.”
According to PSEG, 420,000 Long Islanders lost power due to the storm’s high winds. CEO Ralph Izzo, in an email to customers last week, said the com- pany began preparing for the storm a week in advance. As of Thursday afternoon, 300,000 had power restored, with the rest due Friday and Saturday. As of Monday, 25,000 were still without power, according to the utility. PSEG finally announced on Aug. 13 that all outages from the storm had been fixed. But local officials, on behalf of customers in the region, are calling for answers as to why the response time to the outages was lacking.
“For years we have all seen advertisements from PSEG about the millions of dollars they have spent on tree trimming, communications systems, municipal portals and other preparations in the event of a major hurricane,” said
Brookhaven supervisor Ed Romaine and highway superintendent Dan Losquadro in a joint statement. “Isaias, which was only a tropical storm, shows that this investment of our money did not bear results.”
In a press briefing on Monday, Cuomo went as far as to threaten to revoke the licenses of PSEG and western utility Con Edison, based on the results of the investigation.
“Con Edison, your franchise can be revoked,” Cuomo said. “And I’m as seri- ous as a heart attack. PSEG, you know your franchise can be revoked. And that is a real possibility.”
The town counted 1,600 downed trees during the storm, with about 400 tangled in power lines, which require a PSEG team to fix. According to the statement, there were no PSEG crews assigned to Brookhaven on the day of the storm, seven assigned the day following, and 10 two days following.
“This has resulted in street closures, residents unable to leave their homes, and a dangerous obstacle for emergency responders,” Romaine and Losquadro said. “It is well past time for our electric utility to abandon the 19th-century technology of power lines on wooden poles and make annual investments in beginning the process of moving all lines underground.”
Cuomo also directed an investigation into Verizon, Con Edison, Central Hudson Gas & Electric, Orange and Rockland Utilities, and New York State Electric & Gas. DPS deployed over 7,000 crews to help with restoration efforts.
“I have grave concerns over the lack of disaster preparedness, lack of communication by PSEG Long Island, and the rate in which power is being restored,” said Sen. Monica Martinez, of New York’s 3rd District.
“It is my hope that the investigation will get to the bottom of why the utility response was so bad and if they were properly prepared,” said 3rd District assemblyman Joe DeStefano. “This will help them be better prepared for the next event.”
Romaine and Losquadro questioned the communication efforts of the utility company, saying that the outage map was not accurate and customers had difficulty reporting issues. Izzo, in his email to customers, acknowledged an issue with PSEG Long Island’s telecommunication system due to the storm, which delayed responses to customers.
“However, at no time did the challenges PSEG Long Island faced with our communications systems impact our restoration efforts,” Izzo said. “We have still been able to assess the full extent of the damage and dispatch crews to the impacted areas.”