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Regulator: PSEG emergency plan comprehensive, but unwieldy

PSEG Long Island's emergency response plan is "comprehensive and sufficiently detailed," but also "unwieldy and cumbersome to navigate," a state utility regulator wrote in requesting changes.

The state Department of Public Service, which has "review and recommend" authority over the utility, found that PSEG largely complied with the LIPA Reform Act and Moreland Commission recommendations for the plan, which details how PSEG will respond to emergencies such as superstorm Sandy.

The 31-page report lists nine primary recommendations for PSEG, including that the utility reach out and educate special-needs customers "throughout the year," and create a procedure for coordinating restoration efforts with local gas utility and telecom companies in addition to one already in place with Verizon.

The 30-page report released by the department this month notes that the PSEG response plan is nearly 2,000 pages, and recommends paring it down.

"PSEG LI should review all the information currently in the plan for need, and streamline the information to minimize duplication, allow users to quickly locate information, and to reduce document management problems when edits and updates are required," the report says.

PSEG spokesman Jeff Weir said the utility welcomed the department's comments, and noted the plan, which "continues to evolve" would reflect the recommendations.

A large section of the report details PSEG's plan for re-energizing homes and buildings after flood damage. A draft version of the plan said local municipalities were responsible for making the decision to restore power. Several towns responded with outrage, and PSEG responded by saying the utility would determine whether an electrical inspection was needed and recommend inspectors directly to customers. The decision eliminated that role for local governments, unless they wanted it.

The department report acknowledged that "collaboration with the towns and villages to develop a final inspection and certification process is ongoing," and said the state will be monitoring the process because "any revision made to these procedure must be made to the satisfaction of staff and reflect the concerns of public officials."

The final plan is expected to be in place on June 2.

The department noted that PSEG will benefit from a new computerized outage management system the utility is installing to replace an antiquated National Grid system. The systems help utilities assess damage, deploy crews and accurately report on estimated restoration times.

While the new system will be rolled out this summer, the department noted that "full implementation will take place in stages over an extended period of time -- most likely years." It's the first time a years-long integration of the $40-million-plus system has been disclosed.

The regulators said it was therefore "imperative that as the process moves towards full functionality the requisite process changes be integrated" into the emergency response plan.

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