Area utilities fined over Tropical Storm Isaias preparation

ALBANY – The State Public Service Commission has imposed financial penalties on Orange and Rockland Utilities, Central Hudson and Con Edison for their “apparent failure” to adequately prepare for and respond to Tropical Storm Isaias, which ravage areas of the region this summer.

They face potential penalties totaling $137.3 million, with O&R and Con Edison also facing potential license revocation. The potential penalties facing the three utilities are as follows: Con Edison ($102.3 million for 33 apparent violations); O&R ($19 million for 38 apparent violations) and Central Hudson ($16 million for 32 apparent violations).

All three will now be required to explain why penalties should not be imposed by the PSC for such apparent violations of the laws, regulations and orders that are designed to ensure the safety and reliability of the electric system. 

On the afternoon of August 4, 2020, Tropical Storm Isaias struck New York, bringing strong winds and heavy rain that particularly impacted the Mid-Hudson, New York City, and Long Island regions. The storm caused extensive damage to electric distribution infrastructure that, in turn, led to lengthy outages for a substantial number of New York utility customers. Peak outages affected approximately 900,000 customers. 

The next day, Governor Cuomo directed the Department of Public Service to perform an expedited investigation into utility performance. In response, the department initiated an investigation into New York electric service providers’ preparations and responses to the storm, as well as launching similar investigative efforts into telecommunication providers’ services. 

  Although no apparent violations were discovered in the department’s initial investigation, the department also sent a letter to New York State Electric & Gas, requiring a series of immediate remedial steps to better anticipate storm impacts, including a requirement to double line workers to speed restoration efforts.

The order issued Thursday by the PSC identified several apparent violations, including those related to storm classifications, storm restoration staffing and assessment, call center staffing and response, and inadequate communications in the form of inaccurate and untimely estimated times of restorations, down websites, and the failure to contact registered life support equipment customers.   The utilities have 10 days to respond to the department’s recommendations on how to improve their response and restoration efforts and 30 days to respond regarding a potential penalty action.

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