Hudson Valley Power Companies Could Be Fined $137 million
Three Hudson Valley electric companies are facing fines of over $137 million and could lose their license for allegedly failing to respond quickly enough to Tropical Storm Isaias.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the New York State Public Service Commission has completed its investigation into the apparent failure of New York's electric utilities to adequately prepare for and respond to Tropical Storm Isaias, which ravaged large swaths of New York State this summer.
As a result of the investigation, three of the state's largest utilities - Con Edison, Orange & Rockland and Central Hudson - now face potential penalties totaling $137.3 million, with Con Edison and O&R also facing potential license revocation, officials say.
All three will now be required to explain why penalties should not be imposed for such apparent violations of the laws, regulations and orders that are designed to ensure the safety and reliability of the electric system, according to Cuomo's office.
"We had Hurricane Isaias back in August and we once again had delays from the utility companies. They want to say the storm is the reason why the service was disrupted. I understand that, and New Yorkers are reasonable, but we're paying you for the service of restoring power after the storm. I'm going to do everything I can do to make sure New Yorkers are compensated, and certainly that New Yorkers are not paying for service they're not getting," Cuomo said. "I asked the PSC to do an investigation and as a result of its swift action, the three utilities could be penalized $137 million, which is one of the most significant penalties. They have a right to contest. Let them contest. We will remain diligent in pursuit of the penalties because we are serious."
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.
Below is what the investigation found:
- Con Edison: The Department's initial investigation showed that Con Edison's response to the storm was wholly inadequate and that Con Edison apparently failed to follow its Commission-ordered Emergency Response Plan's requirements relating to its damage assessment responsibilities; and its published estimated time of restoration notices. Recognizing prior instances where Con Edison's storm event response had fallen short of legal requirements, staff noticed that its investigation would include the determination of whether Con Edison's certificate of public convenience and necessity — the prerequisite legal requirement for exercising franchise rights necessary to provide electric service in New York — should or should not be revoked based on these apparent violations as well as Con Edison's prior failures to adequately prepare and respond to emergencies.
- O&R: The Department's initial investigation showed that O&R apparently failed to follow its Commission-ordered Emergency Response Plan's requirements relating to pre-storm crewing assessments. As with Con Edison, and similarly recognizing prior instances where O&R's storm event response had fallen short of legal requirements, staff noticed that its investigation would include the determination of whether O&R's certificate should not be revoked based on these apparent violations as well as O&R's prior failures to adequately prepare and respond to emergencies.
- Central Hudson: The Department's initial investigation showed that Central Hudson had apparently failed to follow its Commission-ordered Emergency Response Plan's requirements relating to its damage assessment responsibilities; and internal website failures.