ACROSS SACHEM, NY (OnSachem.com / OnTownMedia.com) — Calling PSEG Long Island’s response to Tropical Storm Isaias a “failure,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo today demanded an investigation into how the power utility prepared for and handled the storm. The governor was joined by local leaders calling for a probe into the response.
"We know that severe weather is our new reality and the reckless disregard by utility companies to adequately plan for Tropical Storm Isaias left tens of thousands of customers in the dark, literally and figuratively,” said Cuomo. “Their performance was unacceptable.”
Cuomo directed the state Department of Public Service to launch the investigation. In addition to PSEG LI, Cuomo said the investigation will include Verizon, Con Edison, Central Hudson Gas & Electric, Orange and Rockland Utilities, and New York State Electric & Gas.
"The large volume of outages and the utilities' failure to communicate with customers in real time proves they did not live up to their legal obligations. The fact that many customers still do not know when their power will be restored makes it even more unacceptable. The worst of this situation was avoidable, and it cannot happen again,” Cuomo said.
Yesterday, PSEG LI reported that approximately a third of its 1.1 million customers lost power. Ahead of the storm, PSEG LI provided customers with several ways to report outages, such as text messaging, a mobile app and a phone number. However, once the winds blew and power lines came down, customers said their repeated attempts to report outages did not work. They then turned to social media and their elected representatives to express frustration about the inability to report outages.
As the complaints mounted over several hours yesterday, PSEG LI posted a message to customers that stated, "We are having some communication issues and are working with Verizon and other partners to resolve the challenges resulting from the storm. However, our crews are being dispatched to assess the damage and begin restoration and will continue to work 16-hour shifts, around the clock, until every customer is restored.”
Local elected leaders said PSEG LI’s inability to accept outage reports resulted in a flood of powerless customers calling wherever they could to report downed wires and blackouts.
“My office continues to receive countless complaints regarding the difficulty they encountered with reporting outages to PSEG,” said New York State Senator Monica R. Martinez (D-Brentwood). Martinez's 3rd Senate District spans the south shore from Brentwood to Mastic Beach. In the Sachem area, the district includes large portions of Farmingville, Holbrook, Holtsville and Lake Ronkonkoma.
“I have personally reached out to PSEG to inquire on the response. It is unacceptable, at any time but specifically, during a storm, which we had ample time to prepare for, that residents are unable to get answers or reach their provider from which they depend on,” Martinez said.
Today, Martinez called on PSEG LI to immediately review what took place to cause such a severe breakdown in communication.
“Our residents have been through so much in 2020, and it is my responsibility to ensure they are informed and well-served. I call on PSE&G to respond to my inquiry and more importantly to engage every resource they have to fully restore service on Long Island and prepare diligently and proactively, a more effective plan to respond to future emergencies.”
The New York State Assembly Energy Committee’s power includes legislative oversight of electric utilities across the state.
“In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, PSEG Long Island was designated as the new power operator for Long Island," said New York State Assemblyman Doug Smith (R-Holbrook), a member of the Energy Committee. “At that time, I attended dozens of hearings, community meetings, and company presentations from PSEG, highlighting their promises of system resilience, accountability, and customer satisfaction.”
Regarding the tropical storm yesterday, Smith said, “Unfortunately, here we are six years later, with the first large-scale weather event impacting hundreds of thousands of Long Islanders and we saw a complete breakdown in communications. When the power goes out, ratepayers have a basic expectation that their electric company call centers and computer systems will be operational and be able to share timely and accurate information with customers and local governments.”
Smith’s 5th Assembly District spans the townships of Brookhaven and Islip, and includes Holbrook, Holtsville, Ronkonkoma, Lake Ronkonkoma, Lake Grove, Centereach, Selden, Farmingville, as well as parts of North Patchogue, Islandia, and Stony Brook.
“As a member of the New York State Assembly Committee on Energy, representing a community with among the highest electric rates in the nation, I join my colleagues in state government in seeking a probe to see what happened here and to ensure that appropriate investments are being made to the emergency management system and our long neglected transmission systems,” Smith said.
PSEG LI provided the following response when asked about the state’s investigation.
“We have made great progress overnight, restoring more than 244,000 customers affected by the strongest tropical storm to hit the area in years, and we will not rest until everyone’s power is back on,” said Daniel Eichhorn, President and COO of PSEG Long Island and Chief Customer Officer of PSEG Long Island and PSE&G. “We have also overcome many of the issues with Verizon that affected our call center operations yesterday. We understand how critical it is to share accurate and timely information with our customers and we continue working diligently to fully resolve these issues. I want to stress that at no time did these challenges impact our restoration efforts. We have still been able to assess the full extent of the damage and dispatch crews to the impacted areas.”
PSEG LI opened four Customer Outreach Centers today to provide customers with free water and ice. The centers are located at:
Hicksville - 175 E. Old Country Rd.
Roslyn - 250 Willis Ave. (Roslyn Heights)
Greenlawn - 288 Pulaski Rd.
Brentwood - 1650, Islip Ave.