Residents in North Salem and Somers slept through their alarm on Aug. 16 because another power outage blanketed parts of the town.

According to the National Weather Service, weather conditions for the early hours of August 16 were calm with some fog and mist. 

The same thing happened earlier in the month when some light rain fell in North Salem and Somers, causing officials to again question why minor weather happenings are causing thousands of outages. 

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“NYSEG ratepayers cannot continue to live like this,” Sen. Terrence Murphy said. “The Public Service Commission regulates NYSEG and it is time for them to take action. I have heard from dozens of frustrated residents who feel like they are being held hostage, forced to pay more for a service that they cannot depend on.  It’s just not right.”

Last month, Murphy wrote to John Rhodes, chairman of the Public Service Commission (PSC), requesting the regulating agency to take action to help local ratepayers. He requested a written response to his demand that NYSEG’s franchise tag be reopened so another power company can takeover the chronically troubled region.  

To date, Murphy’s office has not received a response.

Last week, he sent another letter to Rhodes requesting the PSC’s intervention after having heard from local officials that they were promised capital improvements in their communities for the past eight months yet they are still experiencing chronic power outages.

“Somers has suffered through thousands of residents losing power just in the past three weeks,” Somers Supervisor Rick Morrissey said. “We continue to pressure and look to the PSC to take action as they are the only regulators over NYSEG. Our Town Utility Task Force also continues to meet with NYSEG to develop means to harden our electrical infrastructure.”
North Salem Supervisor Warren Lucas agreed.

“We need help from the PSC,” Lucas said. “We cannot continue to have multiple power outages a month affecting thousands of town residents. We need an investment in the infrastructure and the PSC is the only group that can require that from the electric company.”

Earlier this year supervisors from Somers and North Salem filed a complaint against NYSEG with the PSC over chronic power outages. That was before two violent winter storms wreaked havoc across the region leaving residents without power for more than a week.

Additionally, Murphy is calling on the New York Independent Systems Operator (NYISO) to revise its December 2017 reliability study regarding the replacement of Indian Point Nuclear Energy Center, which Murphy’s office said produces about 25 percent of the region’s power.

Recently it was announced that Competitive Powers Ventures (CPV), the proposed powerplant for the replacement of Indian Point, had its air quality permit denied.

Murphy believes moving away from Indian Point power could result in even more blackouts for the region.

“We already had a major problem with our transmission infrastructure in Westchester and the Hudson Valley that both NYSEG and the Public Service Commission have failed to address,” Murphy said. “Now we are blowing a second hole in our energy plan by eliminating a prime power generator when we cannot even get replacement generation projects approved.

“The Hudson Valley already sits just below a well-known bottleneck in our transmission grid, and now that we are losing a major generator with no replacement in sight, people cannot be reasonably expected to believe we are prepared to replace Indian Point when the power companies are proving they don’t have the proper staff or training to perform proper tree maintenance, upgrade our transmission capacity or provide regular service,” he continued.

Further, Murphy questioned NYISO’s assertion that the demand for energy is going down.

“For the people in northern Westchester and the Hudson Valley, demand for reliable electrical service has never been greater,”

Murphy said. “The continued failures of NYSEG further calls into question assumptions made by the Indian Point Closure Task Force that our transmission infrastructure is in any shape to provide electricity reliably once the plant closes, which is our only contingency plan for the denial of CPV.”

Murphy said it’s also NYSEG’s improper tree trimming practices, which he said often kill trees that later fall on power lines, as well as the company’s failure to meet its own timetable for removing dead trees and building replacement infrastructure, is to blame for the power outages.

The state lacks any standards, procedures rules or laws that ensure the reliable delivery of electric power by regulating the procedure for tree cutting, pruning, topping and trimming, nor are utility companies required to plant replacement trees for the trees they kill or remove, Murphy said.