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Long Island

LIPA to launch independent review of PSEG Long Island performance

Power lines sag under the weight of a

Power lines sag under the weight of a tree on Evans Avenue in Oceanside Thursday.   Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Long Island Power Authority said it will hire an outside company to begin an independent review of PSEG’s response to Tropical Storm Isaias.

The move, announced Thursday, comes amid continuing problems for customers in reaching the utility to report outages and in finding out when they’ll be restored, problems LIPA chief executive Tom Falcone called “unacceptable.” 

Falcone said he met early Thursday with Public Service Commission chairman John Rhodes, who is also chief executive of the state Department of Public Service, to tour the Long Island service area and examine the utility’s response to the storm. PSEG Long Island president and chief operating officer Dan Eichhorn also attended, Falcone said.

PSEG manages the LIPA grid under a long-term contract, which it was awarded after former contractor National Grid was harshly criticized for its response to superstorm Sandy.

Falcone said LIPA will cooperate with a separate investigation of utility storm response by the Department of Public Service requested by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Wednesday.

But, he said, “we’re not going to wait for the PSC." LIPA will "get to the bottom" of communications problems by PSEG, “and share it with the PSC.” 

Earlier Thursday, Assemb. Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) and State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) sent a letter to LIPA expressing “grave concern” about PSEG’s performance and asking LIPA what it planned to do in response.

“Should LIPA find that PSEG is unable to cure this communication problem immediately … Will LIPA consider exercising its emergency powers and step in and make sure that the cure is made?” the lawmakers asked.

LIPA in the past has gone so far as to put the grid-management contract out to bid when it was dissatisfied with a company’s performance — that’s how PSEG secured the contract from National Grid in 2014 — although in this case LIPA appears aimed at getting to the root of the problem and making sure it’s fixed.

Falcone called PSEG’s communications performance during the storm “unacceptable” and “disappointing,” but noted the company is “laboring as quickly as possible to correct it.”

LIPA believes PSEG has made early and strategic moves in responding to the storm, Falcone added, including securing more than 1,600 off-island crews in advance of the storm. “They aggressively staffed and that made all the difference,” he said.

Falcone said LIPA’s independent review will look at “just what the root causes are” of the ongoing communications problems.

“In the end the customers rely on us,” Falcone said, saying the systems are built for resiliency and redundancy, “and we have to respond quickly.”

“This was a significant storm but these types of storms are going to [continue to] happen,” he said.

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