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State: Hearings to explore PSEG Long Island nor’easter performance

PSEG Long Island workers restore power on March

PSEG Long Island workers restore power on March 8 after a nor'easter. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

The state will hold a pair of hearings in Nassau and Suffolk next week to explore the performance of PSEG Long Island during two of last month’s four nor’easters.

The state Department of Public Service announced Wednesday it will host 20 hearings this month across the state to receive public comment on the preparedness and response of the seven major utility providers.

The Nassau hearing will be Monday, April 16, at 1 p.m. in the Theodore Roosevelt Executive Building in Mineola. The Suffolk hearing will be on Tuesday, April 17, at 3 p.m. in the William H. Rogers Legislative Building in Smithtown.

The state is investigating whether the utilities were prepared for the nor’easters that battered the region on March 2 and 7, causing outages to more than 140,000 Long Island customers. Two additional storms hit Long Island on March 13 and 21.

The hearings were directed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who has suggested revoking franchise licenses of some utilities, and imposing financial sanctions if changes are not made to restore power to customers more quickly after storms.

“People pay them to supply power to their homes, not just when it’s sunny but also when there is a storm,” Cuomo said at a March 21 news conference in Dix Hills. “New Yorkers are understanding and we understand there could be a storm and power lines are down. But we also expect the utility companies to do their job and have the personnel and the resources to quickly restore power. And in my opinion they have failed that mission.”

Cuomo said the providers must adjust to the increased frequency of nor’easters and learn to better coordinate resources, particularly those called from out of state.

In unusually harsh language — reminiscent of how he discussed LIPA after superstorm Sandy in 2012 — Cuomo said the utilities had a “level of arrogance” because many have had franchise licenses for decades.

“They believe they are untouchable,” Cuomo said. “They are not untouchable. They are licensed by the state. If they don’t perform, we will find a new company that can perform.”

PSEG spokeswoman Brooke Houston said the company would cooperate fully with the state’s investigation.

“We are proud of our storm preparation and response during the March nor’easters, and extremely proud of our PSEG Long Island crews, customer service and support personnel who worked around the clock in challenging conditions to safely and quickly restore power to our customers,” Houston said.

Utility customers are encouraged to provide comments at the hearings on how they were effected by the outages; on their communication with utility providers and recommendations for future state actions.

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