November 2, 2012

NY Gov. Cuomo threatens utilities with loss of business

Nearly 1.3 million customers remained without electricity statewide. Most were in New York City, its northern suburbs and on Long Island.

Michael Gormley / The Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. — Utilities faced with restoring power to millions of New Yorkers often amid rubble and trees downed by superstorm Sandy now face at least one more thing: A threat to their future in the state.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday threatened utility companies' rights to operate in the state if they don't immediately put power restoration work into highest gear.

"They were not established in the Old Testament," Cuomo said from Manhattan. "The state grants them the right to be here and I'm going to hold them accountable."

Cuomo referred to the state Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities to make sure they are meeting standards of service, including the response to power outages.

"Some of the utilities suggested my admonition was strict for them," Cuomo said. "I do believe in the past they haven't been held accountable."

He said the state could revoke the state's certificates of public convenience and necessity awarded to utilities under state Public Service Law. The Public Service Commission hasn't responded to requests for comment about the level of complaints.

"It goes without saying that such failures would warrant the removal of the management responsible for such colossal misjudgments," the governor said in a letter to utility presidents.

Utility companies did not immediately return messages for comment Friday.

Nearly 1.3 million customers remained without electricity statewide, down from a peak of about 2.2 million Tuesday. Most were in New York City, its northern suburbs and on Long Island. All utilities have shown jumps each day in homes and businesses where power has been restored.

The utilities have been dispatching about 4,000 utility crews from out of state and outside the New York City area. New York State Electric & Gas Corp., for example, was able to send crews from their sister company in Maine to New York on Thursday, after they finished restorations in Maine. Crews were coming in hourly from states throughout the Midwest and the South.

Consolidated Edison Co., which serves mostly New York City, expects to restore power to lower Manhattan by the end of Friday. The island has been divided near 30th Street, with neighorhoods north of there having plenty of power for homes and stores while lower Manhattan has been without lights and heat.

"From what we've seen, Con Ed is doing as much work as they possibly can," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

He noted more tree limbs fell than expected and the tidal surge was larger than anyone forecast.

"The vast bulk of people should be back today or tomorrow," Bloomberg said Friday. "But we're not going to stop, and they are working as hard as they can to get everybody else back up. I always stop by a Con Ed worker and say, 'Thanks for taking care of us.'"

Cuomo deployed 600 National Guard soldiers Friday to Westchester and Rockland counties to help identify dangerous power lines on the ground, clear debris and redirect traffic as a way of expediting power restoration efforts. That brings the total National Guard strength to 3,400 troops and more than 470 vehicles mobilized in response to Sandy.

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