New York lawmakers grilled power company representatives and regulators at a hearing on Thursday. They criticized PSEG Long Island over extended outages and communication breakdowns following Tropical Storm Isaias.
Sag Harbor Assemblyman Fred Thiele said he is not confident the Public Service Commission has any teeth to hold PSEG Long Island accountable for failures to restore power and communications after the storm.
“PSEG Long Island is the most unregulated utility in the country. And I think this is not a question of replacing CEO’s or changing companies," Thiele said. "We need to change the structure here.”
State Senator Jim Gaughran of Huntington said the commission can’t do much to hold the PSEG Long Island accountable because of the utility’s contract with LIPA.
“Very clearly, the commission itself cannot do anything to sanction PSEG under this contract,” Gaughran said.
Public Service Commission Chairperson John Rhodes said they have the authority to make recommendations related to PSEG Long Island, including that the contract with LIPA be terminated.
“We also have very clear lines of responsibility and accountability and very clear cut metrics, all of which we can review and strengthen and ensure as we go through this investigation,” Rhodes said.
Lawmakers also said they were concerned that reimbursement to PSEG Long Island customers for spoiled food and medicine will be paid by ratepayers instead of the company’s profits.
PSEG Long Island President Daniel Eichhorn said they restored power to 420,000 customers who were in the dark after the storm. He said the timetable kept getting pushed back because customers lost power in the days after the storm, as crews cleaned up debris.
Eichhorn said they warned 6,000 vulnerable customers on the critical care list ahead of the storm to inform them they might lose power for extended period of time.