YORKTOWN, NY – A recent investigation authorized by the New York State Public Service Commission has identified 43 potential violations by public utilities, including Con Edison and NYSEG which serve Yorktown, for failing to follow state-approved storm emergency response plans a year ago when Winter Storms Riley and Quinn knocked out power to 160,000 residents across the Hudson Valley. Yorktown Supervisor candidate Matt Slater helped launch the investigation while serving as the chief of staff for the New York State Senate Standing Committee on Investigations and Government Operations.
“This report confirms what we all saw firsthand throughout our community,” Slater said. “The communication from the utility companies to customers and government officials was a disaster. Instead of accurate information, calls were made saying power had been restored when homes remained in the dark. Thank you to the PSC for identifying the problems. It’s now up to the legislature and governor to end the utilities’ repeated mismanagement of storm responses. Our energy rates are the second highest in the nation. We should be getting more for what we pay, starting with adequate storm response.”
Slater had helped author and pass a bill to strengthen emergency plans, adding new criterion which must be included, setting minimum benchmarks and providing stiffer penalties for noncompliance. He says it is critical for immediate action to be taken at the local level.
In Yorktown, Slater proposes setting up an online portal so residents can report damaged or dying trees, alerting town officials of potential problems before storms strike. “The portal will be available all year round and provide a shareable database so that problem trees can be identified, and the proper response can be developed by the town, utilities and residents ahead of an emergency, not once it happens,” he said.
Slater provided hands on support throughout Winter Storms Riley and Quinn, communicating directly with utility officials and organizing relief efforts for local residents. He said pressure on the utilities must continue. Last fall, he assisted in organizing an online letter drive by residents urging the PSC to take action against NYSEG, citing consistent service interruptions and failures by the company.
These efforts can have positive results. NYSEG is now being forced to pay $1.1 million stemming from an investigation into its storm response failures from a windstorm on March 8, 2017, which impacted 48,000 customers. The fine will help pay for improving storm response.
“I have heard from residents across town who don’t even know where to call when trees are lying on power lines,” Slater said. “This is another opportunity for Yorktown to step into the 21st Century and advance our mission of making our town government more efficient, effective and responsible to local taxpayers.”