City to study burying power lines


The City Council voted unanimously last week to initiate a study to examine the feasibility of burying overhead power lines. 

As a result of the bill, co-sponsored by Councilman Oliver Koppell, the city’s office of long-term planning and sustainability will study which areas are most often affected by long-term power outages due to downed power lines and how much it would cost to move power lines in those neighborhoods underground.

The legislation was introduced in the wake of superstorm Sandy, which caused major power outages across the city, including weeklong outages at many homes in Riverdale and Kingsbridge. Placing power lines underground would not prevent all outages, but a City Council press release says those lines are “generally more reliable and less susceptible to outages caused by weather conditions.”

Con Edison spokesman Allan Drury has said previously that it would cost millions per mile to move power lines underground, which he said would triple all Con Ed customers’ monthly electricity bills. 

Mr. Drury said underground lines are more expensive to maintain and take longer to restore in the case of outages. But Con Edison is open to talking about how to better protect the city’s infrastructure, he said.

In December, Mr. Drury wrote in an e-mail that the fallout from Sandy should lead to “a thoughtful discussion among urban planners, climate experts, government agencies, regulators, utility ratepayers and others about how to better protect the infrastructure in NYC.”

Mr. Koppell pledged to “turn the heat up” on Con Edison after many of his constituents were left without power for an extended period of time after Sandy.

“I welcome this study,” Mr. Koppell said in a press release, “which is particularly relevant to my district where the existence of overhead power lines in Fieldston resulted in a large number of outages and long delays in restoring power to that community. I have already asked Con Ed to bury the lines underground in Fieldston and I believe the results of this study will bolster my request.” 

The study is due to the Council and the mayor in six months.