Strengthened emergency and storm response requirements announced for utilities
ALBANY, N.Y. – Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced Thursday that
the New York State Public Service Commission has taken steps to improve and
strengthen the performance of New York's large electric utilities during and
after major storm events.
These actions stem from recommendations made by the Moreland
Commission on Utility Storm Preparation and Response, instituted by the
governor to investigate the electric utilities' management, preparation and
response to the major storms that have affected New York State over the past
two years, including Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.
"From our experience with extreme weather these last few
years, it is clear that New York State's electric utilities need to improve
their preparation and response for future storms and emergencies," said Gov.
Cuomo. "The investigation by the Moreland Commission on Utility Storm
Preparation and Response identified many ways that the state's utilities can do
just that. Today's actions by the Public Service Commission will build upon the
efforts already underway to protect our residents and businesses from future
significant storm-related outages, and ensure that utilities are held accountable
during these events."
The PSC has ordered the six major investor-owned utilities
operating in New York State to implement reforms to three main issues
identified in the Moreland Commission's final report, including:
Electric utilities should improve their development and
timely issuance of localized estimated restoration times (ETRs).
Electric utilities need to engage in an industry-wide effort
to address deficiencies in the current mutual assistance process.
Electric utilities need defined procedures for responding to
large-scale flooding events.
In addition to utility-specific recommendations put forth by
the Moreland Commission, the PSC has ordered utilities to address a number of
other recommendations in their electric emergency plans, some already
implemented, such as:
Coordinate communications with gas utilities and
Include procedures for coordinating electric restoration
with each telecommunications company's restoration efforts during major storm
events. Plans must describe the method and the means that will be used to
communicate with telecommunications companies.
Require each electric utility to provide more detailed
procedures to track customers who experience flood damage to customer-owned
Incorporate municipal call procedures, including the use of
meeting agendas, used during events.
Direct electric utilities to identify how energized wires
are to be tracked and prioritized during an active storm and in what priority
repair work related to down energized wires will be performed post storm,
taking into account the potential for public harm.
Clearly identify the methodology used to determine customer
service representative staffing levels. Emergency plans must also contain
detailed call center performance objectives and goals including the triggers
and parameters for activating and use of third party vendor assistance in handling
increased call volume.
The 2013-14 State Budget enacted increased assessment and
overview of utility activity requirements in New York. As a result, the PSC is
now required to approve electric emergency response plans filed annually by
electric corporations every December, and specifies subject areas to be covered
in the emergency response plans. To ensure compliance with newly strengthened
laws and regulations, the PSC now has the ability to initiate a civil penalty
proceeding in situations where a utility has failed to file or properly
implement a storm plan.
In order to protect residents and businesses throughout the
current storm system, many efforts to improve utility storm preparation and
response have been underway for several months. Under Governor Cuomo's
leadership, the utilities have already initiated a process to improve the
mutual assistance protocols, many of the flood restoration procedures have been
incorporated into the plans, and improvements are underway.
Specifically, last February, PSC staff directed the
utilities to describe in detail the specific temporary and permanent measures
the companies were taking to harden energy distribution systems against future
storm damage in preparation for this year's hurricane season, which runs from
June 1 to November 30.
PSC staff also directed the utilities to incorporate flood
restoration procedures; pre-emptive power shutdown procedures; improvements in
social media; completion of Irene, Lee, October snowstorm recommendations; and
implementation of company lessons learned from Superstorm Sandy.
In addition, last month, PSC staff provided additional
direction to the utilities designed to improve mutual assistance protocols;
improve identification and contacts for all telecommunication companies within
each utilities' service territory; improve coordination with local officials;
and refine utility-specific wires down procedures.
In April, Governor Cuomo unveiled a new utility ‘scorecard'
as a way to hold utilities accountable for power restorations after a
significant outage using a quantitative assessment of electric utility
performance, as part of the State's efforts for more aggressive review and
evaluation of utilities following Superstorm Sandy. The scorecard will help
establish standards to promote effective emergency preparation and response by
utilities in the restoration of power to their communities. Holding utilities
accountable to such standards will ensure that they have the ability, capacity,
and mindset to act quickly and effectively. The utilities will be reporting
under the refined scorecard while further improvements are made.
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