Letter: Storm Response

With Tropical Storm Isaias in the rearview mirror, it is time to ensure that we learn from this experience and avoid such prolonged power outages in the future (Officials Fault Utilities for Isaias Response, Aug. 28).

While there are many reforms being discussed in our communities, I would like to highlight some of the obvious changes I am advocating.

First, we need to change the incentive structure for our utility and telecommunications companies. We need the Public Service Commission to issue larger fines for slow responses.

If passed and enacted by the governor, Assembly and Senate bills A10955/S8932 would create time-based goals for power restoration, such as the requirement that at least 80 percent of customers have service restored within 48 hours.

Assembly and Senate bills A10900/S8931 would direct the Public Service Commission to study the feasibility and costs of burying utility transmission lines. Many of our outages are related to falling trees and wind. While some areas are already underground, our area is susceptible. This bill is the first step to undergrounding our system.

Assembly bill A4010 would require gas stations to have emergency generators that supply 48 hours of electricity (Should Gas Stations Have Generators?, Aug. 28). We rely on gas stations for our cars and generators. Having gas stations remain open is in the public interest.

Finally, electric utilities should provide reimbursements for the foods and medicines of customers who are left without power for more than 24 hours. This is another way that companies cut corners to save a dime.

There is much left to do to improve our system. If you have ideas for legislation, email me at galefs@nyassembly.gov. These are necessary first steps, with more to come.

Sandy Galef, Albany
Galef’s district includes Philipstown.


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One thought on “Letter: Storm Response

  1. In response to the prolonged power outages following Tropical Storm Isaias, Assemblywoman Galef proposes some meaningful changes.

    First, the creation of time-based goals for power restoration (and avoiding fines, presumably) by the utility and telecom companies makes total sense. The proposal that at least 80 percent of customers have service restored within 48 hours is a great step. Perhaps it does not go far enough. In fact, the thresholds should be 90 percent and 24 hours.

    The second proposal, directing the Public Service Commission to study the feasibility of undergrounding the utility transmission systems, deserves support. After determining that the undergrounding is feasible (which it is), the Assembly and Senate must produce a plan to actually get the job done. The economic dividends of the project will more than justify the substantial investment.

    Ms. Galef’s final proposal, that electric utilities should provide reimbursements for the foods and medicines of customers who are left without power for more than 24 hours, also stands to reason. My comments on the reimbursement proposal go to the mechanics of how it would work. Customers should not have to prove a financial loss. It should be presumed that any customer left without power for more than 24 hours has suffered one. The utility should then reimburse each such customer promptly and automatically. By “promptly,” I mean at the moment when the clock strikes 24 hours. By “automatically,” I mean a check or ACH payment going out by system design, independent of any manual process. And in what amount? The chiefs of utility companies might not realize this, but groceries are expensive, both in dollars and in the time needed to gather them. So the amount should be a hundred dollars per household per occurrence, with an inflation index pegged to 2020. Do the utility companies not like that? Then they must try harder not to let the power go out.

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