MAHOPAC, N.Y.-State Sen. Terrence Murphy, chairman of the Senate Committee on Investigations and Government Operations, is calling for a hearing to examine the storm preparedness and response by regional utility companies.
Many residents across the Hudson Valley, and in particular the counties of Dutchess, Putnam and Westchester, have been without power since Friday afternoon (March 2) due to what utility companies are calling the worst incident since Superstorm Sandy. A second nor’easter hit Wednesday (March 7) knocking out power again for some customers and hampering restoration efforts. Local elected officials were harsh in their condemnation of the NYSEG response.
“Here in the Hudson Valley we have experienced multiple blackouts over the past few months, winter price hikes and now a subpar performance in response to this latest storm,” Murphy said. “Residents and our partners in government are beyond frustrated with the poor performance and deserve answers as to what steps were taken in preparation and what needs to be done in the future.”
Murphy’s colleague in the senate, Sue Serino (R-Hyde Park), echoed his sentiments saying there was a “disconnect” with the area utility companies.
“I join my colleagues in calling for a hearing to garner a clear picture of what went wrong and where we can do better to ensure that local residents are kept safe and have services they can depend on,” she said in a statement.
Murphy said he, along with Serino, has called on the New York State Public Service Commission to investigate the companies.
“I believe it’s my obligation to ask a lot of questions about the malfunction that has happened here,” Murphy said.
Murphy said that he proposed legislation, prior to the storm, that would have improved the situation. He called on the Senate to immediately pass S7262, which would require public utilities to submit emergency preparation plans to the Public Service Commission on an annual basis. It would also require reports submitted following an emergency situation, such as this.
Carmel Supervisor Ken Schmitt called NYSEG’s response to the storm “horrible.”
“This was poorly planned and executed by management” Schmitt said. “We deserve results and must see the [power loss] numbers are coming down. I look forward to voicing the dissatisfaction of Carmel’s residents at the appropriate time.”
Somers Supervisor Rick Morrissey said public utilities have a “fiduciary duty” to provide services to their customers.
“NYSEG continues to release misinformation and fail in its responsibility to local ratepayers,” he said. “I look forward to testifying about the inadequate response in Somers and to hold whoever necessary accountable.”
North Salem Supervisor Warren Lucas said his town had already filed a formal complaint with the Public Service Commission about NYSEG from an episode in January.
Out-of-town repair crews, some from as far away as Maine, Indiana and Quebec, were seen working throughout the community over the past week in an effort to help NYSEG and restore power. Nonetheless, what many elected officials considered a sluggish response by the utility companies had them calling on both NYSEG and Con Edison CEOs to step down.
Kevin Ortiz, a spokesman for NYSEG, said he wouldn’t address those comments, but added that NYSEG was working hard to restore power.
“NYSEG is steadfastly committed to restoring power back for our customers as safely and quickly as possible,” Ortiz said. “NYSEG has deployed thousands of men and women from our companies as well neighboring utilities and contractors, who have been working around the clock. We are also actively engaged with the Public Service Commission to address any operational concerns they may have. We will continue to use every available resource until power is back for all of our customers impacted by these two storms.”
Murphy said details of the hearing will be announced once cleanup and full restoration have been completed.