Michelle Sicignano, LMSW

Michelle Sicignano, LMSW

Social Justice Solutions | Staff Writer
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Addressing the Public Obligation of a Public Utility

New York’s Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman,  opened an investigation and issued subpoenas to both LIPA, Long Island Power Authority and Con Ed,  Consolidated Edison, over the “utilities’ preparedness and response” to hurricane Sandy. ” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday said he would form a special state commission to investigate the response by LIPA and other utility companies.”

“Nearly a million of LIPA’s 1.1 million customers” lost power during the storm and many of waited nearly two weeks to get power back, and some are still waiting. “More than a quarter of ConEd’s customers lost power, including almost all of Lower Manhattan over several days following the storm.”

The district attorney’s office is looking into “whether LIPA violated the state Public Authorities Law” in failing to deliver a reliable and adequate supply of electricity to its customers, and is “reviewing assertions… LIPA made to bondholders in disclosure statements about the reliability of its systems in the face of rough storms.”  PSE& G is slated to take over from LIPA in 2014.  Additionally, questions regarding whether “ConEd, a publicly traded company, violated the Public Service Law,”  requiring “investor-owned utilities to “furnish and provide such service, instrumentalities and facilities as shall be safe and adequate” are being raised.

How could the response of a public service utility in a large metropolitan area been so poor? Why is such a large company with such high rates (LIPA) using outmoded methods and out of date technologies? Outside, out of state line-workers brought in to help have called LIPA “unprepared,” said they have not shown “leadership,” and are using questionable practices in terms of operation.

In a news conference, shown in the link, New York Governor Cuomo calls the utilities to task for the “failure to preform” the service they have been given a “franchise, license, charter” for.  What should we expect from our public utilities  and what should be the repercussions when they fail to preform the services they have been contracted to provide?

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