Cuomo takes aim at power utilities


Gov. Andrew Cuomo is not happy with how some of the utility companies like Con Edison performed in response to Tropical Storm Isaias. So he’s proposing new legislation he says will hurt utilities where it counts if they don’t perform as expected.

“We don’t pay just to have the utility companies function on a nice day,” Cuomo said Monday, during a news conference. “The essence of what we pay for is, be ready for a storm. Be able to handle the storm. Give me the information when my power goes out, and get my power on quickly. That is what we are paying the utility companies for.”

Although Cuomo himself cannot introduce legislation into the Assembly or senate, he is asking lawmakers to increase the current legal limits on penalties for utility companies that fail to effectively respond to power outages from the current limits of $100,000, or 0.02 percent of gross operating revenues.

“If that’s the limit compared to the money they’re making, this is de minimis,” Cuomo said. “They’re just paying penalties, basically, as a cost of doing business.”

Cuomo also wants to streamline the process involved in revoking a utility’s operating certificate if they continuously fail when it comes to outages.

“They have to know they can lose their operating certificate, and it’s going to take years to do,” Cuomo said. “We’re not going to wind up in the courts. We can do it, and we can do it quickly.”

On top of all that, Cuomo also wants a mandatory communication system that would allow utilities to better relay information and updates to customers during outages while giving accurate information on when they can expect to have their power restored.

“People are reasonable,” the governor said. “Yes, there was a storm. My power went out. I got it. I need to know when it comes back. I have children in the house. I need to know if I should stay in my house, if I should leave. If it’s one day, two hours, one week — I need that information. And they have to provide that information.

“I’ve heard many legislators about how they’re upset. If you’re upset, do something about it. Change the law.”