Sen. Terrence Murphy has asked the Public Service Commission to replace NYSEG with a different company after more power outages hit the Westchester and Putnam counties region.
In a letter to John Rhodes, chair of the state Public Service Commission, Murphy said “it is past time for your agency to reopen the franchise for this region to allow a capable power producer to take over.”
NYSEG customers in Westchester and Putnam counties experienced what Murphy said is the “10th outage of the year” last week when rain soaked the region.
“The power was out, not because a tornado touched down, or a microburst devastated a neighborhood or a summertime nor’easter came through,” Murphy said. “The lights went out because it rained and the wind blew a bit.”
In January, Somers and North Salem banded together to file a formal complaint against NYSEG with the state Public Service Commission. More recently, Somers created a task force to keep an eye on NYSEG.
NYSEG has announced planned upgrades for the region, but Murphy said “the time to talk has passed.”
“People do not want to see another meaningless investigation by your agency resulting in lip service and empty promises,”
Murphy wrote to Rhodes. “It is the responsibility of NYSEG to keep the lights on, and it is your job to make sure they do it.”
If Rhodes is “unable to unwilling to accomplish this,” Murphy wrote, he asked for an explanation “to know why New York State is not properly holding NYSEG accountable.”
Somers Supervisor Rick Morrissey said he was in “complete agreement” with Murphy.
“Our only recourse to hold NYSEG accountable and demand competent service delivery lies with the PSC,” Morrissey said.
“Yesterday (July 25) there was another outage in Somers with hundreds without power, and fires and road closures. This has got to stop and the PSC is the agency responsible and should be capable of assuring that reliable electrical service is delivered.”
According to the Somers Fire Department, the heat “energized wires” on Route 118 causing them to come down, spark a fire, and caused widespread power outages. The traffic lights went out at the intersection of Routes 202 and 118, “which resulted in a (motor vehicle accident) and the closure of the intersection for almost one hour,” the department said.
As of Friday, July 27, many homes were still without power and many homeowners incurred damage to their circuit breakers and appliances when NYSEG turned the power back on.
Somers Councilman Tom Garrity, who serves on the Somers NYSEG task force, advised residents to hire a personal electrician to survey the damage and file claims with NYSEG.
“I can’t guarantee anything other than we will continue to push,” Garrity said in a Facebook post. “I wish I had better news, but I will continue to try and keep communication open whenever these issues arise.”
North Salem Supervisor Warren Lucas said he and Morrissey continue to have conversations with PSC and NYSEG about necessary changes.
“Capital improvements need to be done,” Lucas said. “It’s a monopoly, hence the PSC is responsible for making them invest in our area. To date, the PSC has not done that and has them investing on the governor’s projects. While things like LED street lights are good, you have to be able to deliver the energy to the consumer.”
In an email, NYSEG spokesman Kevin Ortiz said the utility is “actively working on a number of initiatives” like tree trimming, distribution and transmission system inspections, replacement of insulators, pole conductors and other equipment, rebuilding or installing new equipment in substations, upgrading or installing automation devices, and installing more resilient poles, cable, hardware and system protectors.
“These projects are all in progress,” Ortiz said.
NYSEG’s parent company, Avangrid, also announced a $2.5 billion “resiliency plan,” which Ortiz said includes measures that will harden the power grid to better withstand storms.
“We are committed to meeting our customers’ expectations, and will work closely with the PSC and elected officials to ensure our plan advances that objective,” Ortiz said.
The main objectives of this new plan, called Transforming Energy, are:
• Accelerated replacement of wood poles based on a specific list of criteria, including physical condition, structural deficiencies and recent circuit performance;
• Increased use of insulated spacer cable or “tree wire” to minimize outages in the instance of tree contact;
• An analysis of areas where electrical infrastructure hardening, including undergrounding or new technologies such as batteries or microgrids, would be cost beneficial based on circuit performance;
• More aggressive “ground to sky” tree trimming and the identification and remediation of hazardous trees outside the right-of-way along critical infrastructure;
• Targeted distribution circuit upgrades to improve grid interconnectivity and provide alternative sources of supply where beneficial.