After Isaias, We've Had It with Poor Storm Outage Response from Utilities [Senator Mayer Opinion Piece in the Journal News]

Originally published in The Journal News on September 16, 2020.

I am introducing several new bills that address the systemic problems that have enabled these companies — especially those that have a monopoly — to choose protecting their profits over protecting our communities in major weather events. They also strengthen the power and makeup of the PSC. These bills include:

  • Increasing penalties for electricity service reliability violations to be five times higher than current amounts;
  • Removing the requirement that public service law violations must be “knowing” violations;
  • Requiring cable and phone companies to implement publicly available emergency response plans; and
  • Increasing the number of PSC commissioners, requiring that at least two commissioners have consumer protection credentials, and that commissioners represent the diversity of New York State. 

I am also co-sponsoring bills introduced by my colleagues that:

  • Require that all future electrical, telephone, and internet transmission lines be installed underground, and that the PSC study the feasibility of burying existing transmission lines;
  • Force power companies to issue customers $100 per day in credits against their utility bills for each day an outage lasts beyond the first 24 hours;
  • Require that utilities file quarterly reports with the members of the Senate and Assembly to detail infrastructure upgrades;
  • Direct the PSC to study the feasibility of transferring services provided by the operation and ownership of gas and electric utility companies to an entity owned and operated by the State of New York;
  • Require reimbursement for food and medicine spoilage; and
  • Require that utilities establish 24/7 toll-free numbers to report outages.

I heard loud and clear from my constituents: this time, take meaningful action to make sure this storm performance does not repeat itself. Too often, once power and services are restored, the commitment to change subsides. We will not let that happen this time.