Cuomo calls for investigation into PSEG storm response as residents remain without power

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A tree takes down a powerline after high winds from Tropical Storm Isaias. (Photo courtesy of PSE&G)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo demanded an investigation into an “apparent lack of adequate planning by utility companies” in the aftermath of damage, destruction and lost electricity due to the effects of Tropical Storm Isaias on Wednesday as thousands of Nassau County residents remain without power.

His office says that the governor has directed the state’s Department of Public Service to launch an investigation into the responses of many utilities, including PSEG, to “determine the causes of their failures.”

“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. The large volume of outages and the utilities’ failure to communicate with customers in real time proves they did not live up to their legal obligations. The fact that many customers still do not know when their power will be restored makes it even more unacceptable. The worst of this situation was avoidable, and it cannot happen again.”

Power provider PSEG Long Island is under fire from government officials and customers due to a perceived ineffective response to the storm.

The storm affected approximately 440,000 customers across Long Island, according to the company, and about 105,000 customers remain without power as of Friday afternoon.

“Due to the large number of crews from other utilities brought into our service area before Tropical Storm Isaias, power restoration is progressing faster than can be displayed on the outage map,” a statement reads. “The map will fluctuate as we refine the data.”

PSEG also said that while they “experienced issues with our communications systems, at no time did these challenges impact restoration efforts.”

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said at a press conference on Thursday that she had spoken to Cuomo prior to his declaration.

“I know many residents are still without power,” Curran said. “PSEG’s Dan Eichorn has been out there talking about how they take responsibility, they’ve said that it’s unacceptable and they’re going to look to see what happened.”

Curran then called upon PSEG leaders to announce plans for a “post recover review” that would include examining communications protocols and devising a backup plan.

“You’ve got to have a plan B and a plan C,” Curran said. “And a repeat of those mistakes is unacceptable.”

A day after Town of Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin called for an investigation into PSEG’s response and compared its ineffectiveness to National Grid during Superstorm Sandy, Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth issued a statement invoking the same 2012 event.

“While the storm came and went quickly, its impact on our community was not dissimilar to the destruction wrought by Superstorm Sandy in 2012,” Bosworth wrote. “We are grateful that there were no reports of losses of life, and our Town crews are working diligently to ensure the continued safety of our residents.”

Bosworth also said that the town’s recovery “is expected to take several weeks.”

PSEG estimated Thursday that power will be restored to 85% of customers by the end of Friday, with the remainder restored by the end of day on Saturday. Over 2,000 line workers, tree trimmers and other personnel in 16-hour shifts until every customer is restored, they add.

“Our goal, always, is to restore power safely and as quickly as possible,” the company said in a statement. “We ask our customers for a fair amount of patience and to know we will be there just as soon as it is safe.”

The company later reported Friday afternoon that repairs were taking longer than expected.

“While we expect the vast majority of customers to be restored by end of day Saturday, we are finding that each job is requiring more work than anticipated due to the extent of the storm’s damage,” the company said in a statement. “This may unfortunately push some restorations past end of day Saturday.”

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