04.04.18

SCHUMER DEMANDS FERC - FED AGENCY WITH JURISDICTION - TO IMMEDIATELY LAUNCH INVESTIGATION INTO WIDESPREAD & LONG-LASTING POWER OUTAGES YEAR AFTER YEAR IN WESTCHESTER, PUTNAM COUNTIES; URGES FEDS TO UNCOVER FACTS, ASSIST COUNTIES IN IDENTIFYING PROBLEM & COME UP WITH PERMANENT SOLUTIONS

Schumer Pushes Feds To Work Hand-In-Hand With State & Local Governments To Prevent Massive Power Outages During Future Storms

Schumer: Widespread & Long-Lasting Power Outages Cannot Continue Year After Year 

On the heels of Westchester, Putnam and the Hudson Valley being slammed by winter storms Riley and Quinn, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today called on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to immediately launch a top to bottom investigation into why there have been constant long-lasting power outages in Westchester and Putnam after major storms year after year. Schumer said residents are sick and tired of excuses and demand an all hands on deck approach, which is why it is necessary the federal government’s chief agency with jurisdiction, FERC assist state and local agencies to uncover facts, assist counties in identifying problem, and come up with permanent solutions to prevent future widespread and long-lasting outages.

“The constant major power outages causing days of black of outs after storms like Riley and Quinn are unacceptable. Something is very wrong here when these long-lasting blackouts are happening year after year. Whether it is a leadership issue, an infrastructure issue, a lack of manpower issue, or all of the above– the reality is this cannot continue any longer,” said Senator Schumer. “That is why today I am calling on FERC the top fed agency with jurisdiction, who oversees our power companies - to immediately launch a full-blown investigation to figure out what is going on with our power in Westchester County and throughout the Hudson Valley. Simply put, FERC must step-up to plate to assist state and local agencies to uncover all the facts, assist counties like Westchester in identifying problems, and most importantly come up with permanent solutions to prevent future outages."

Schumer was joined by Westchester County Executive George Latimer, Assemblyman David Buchwald, and impacted homeowner Christine Roithmayr.

“I applaud Senator Schumer for taking the matter so seriously.  The power outages that Westchester residents experienced in March were outrageous.  The lack of communication from the utilities was inexcusable.  I thank the Senator for calling on FERC and am eager to see what their investigation finds.  The only way to fix the outage problems going forward is to have a clear understand as to what went wrong in March,” said Westchester County Executive George Latimer.

 “I want to thank Senator Schumer for bringing the federal government’s top energy regulatory agency to the investigation of how best to limit power outages and restore electric service to our residents,” said State Assemblyman David Buchwald. “ At all levels of government, from the village hall to our nation’s Capital, we are rolling up our sleeves and getting to work to make sure we are doing everything in our collective power to be prepared for and respond to these storms.”

On March 2, New York was hit by a fatal winter storm, Riley; some areas of the state saw more than three feet of snow, along with brutal winds approaching nearly sixty miles per hour. Hurricane-force gusts grounded flights up and down the Northeast corridor and knocked down countless trees and power lines throughout the Hudson Valley region. Later that night more than 323,000 New Yorkers had lost power. Just days later, on March 7, the region was pummeled by another strong winter storm, Quinn, which resulted in blizzard-like conditions and knocked out power for more than a hundred thousand additional customers. Tragically, these storms were responsible for multiple deaths. In addition, while these storms resulted in widespread damage, dangerous roads, and conditions, downed trees, Schumer pointed out that once again there were a significant number of power outages across the Hudson Valley, particularity in Westchester County. Schumer said it is unacceptable when residents become accustomed to week-long power outages – which was the case last month.

Schumer’s letter to FERC appears below:

Dear Chairman McIntyre:

I write to urge you to investigate the transmission facility outages that occurred during consecutive winter snowstorms that hit New York, specifically Westchester and Putnam Counties, in early March of this year. Winter storms Riley and Quinn resulted in widespread damage, dangerous conditions, and hundreds and thousands of sustained power outages throughout the Hudson Valley I am deeply concerned that many of my constituents went without power for extended periods of time, with some residents left without power for more than ten days. These power outages were more than inconvenient, they were a threat to health and safety. It is imperative that these utility companies, especially in this case, Con Edison and New York State Electric and Gas Corporation (NYSEG), learn from these storms, and more importantly, implement necessary changes to ensure this type of unacceptable situation does not occur again. Therefore, I ask the Commission to initiate a top-to-bottom investigation into the causes of the transmission and distribution outages – with all due speed – and release the findings, recommending specific actions the utilities must take to improve emergency response, performance, and grid resiliency.

On March 2, New York was hit by a fatal winter storm, Riley; some areas of the state saw more than three feet of snow, along with brutal winds approaching nearly 60 miles per hour. Hurricane-force gusts grounded flights up and down the Northeast corridor and knocked down countless trees and power lines throughout the Hudson Valley region. On the night of Friday, March 2, more than 323,000 New Yorkers had lost power. Just days later, on March 7, the region was pummeled by another strong winter storm, Quinn, which resulted in blizzard-like conditions and knocked out power for more than a 100,000 additional customers. Tragically, these storms were responsible for multiple deaths. During these storms and in their aftermath, normal daily activity came to a standstill, with dozens of school districts closed for days, business and government offices shuttered, and local crews working around the clock to clear roadways. Westchester and Putnam Counties were impacted the hardest with tens of thousands of residents remaining without power for days on end. Unfortunately, the damage to the Hudson Valley continued with winter storms Skylar and Toby hitting March 13, 2018, and March 21, 2018, respectively.

In consideration of the scope and seriousness of the March snowstorms, I ask that FERC immediately conduct an investigation and report their findings on the storms’ impact and cause of the transmission facility outages, and make recommendations to improve emergency response, utility performance and enhance grid reliability. I request that you work alongside utilities and state agencies, such as Con Edison and NYSEG to monitor their independent inquiries and create a comprehensive picture of the outages caused by the storms to increase resiliency for the next large snowstorm.

We hope that you will take these concerns seriously to ensure that we the power utilities are able to improve future disaster prevention and response. Due to the severity of the outages in New York, and the thousands of families that were impacted by this,  I strongly urge you to immediately investigate and publish a report on the snowstorm outages and recommend necessary steps for utilities to improve performance and grid resiliency. Thank you for your attention to this matter and I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

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