(Carle Place, NY) Today, Senator Anna M. Kaplan (D-Great Neck) passed legislation to reform the way that utilities respond during an outage to prioritize those with special needs, and ensure that residents aren't forced to pay for services that they don't receive during an outage. The bills passed as part of a legislative package supported by Senator Kaplan to get tough on utilities that failed in the wake of Tropical Storm Isaias in August, 2020, bringing more transparency and accountability to utilities like PSEG-LI, LIPA, and Altice.
Senator Anna M. Kaplan said "PSEG-LI and Altice put Long Islanders through hell this past August when they completely failed in their response to Tropical Storm Isaias. It's clear that these utilities need strict guardrails and consumer protections in place to ensure we don't go through a situation like that ever again, and the passage of today's legislative package is the next step in our continuing efforts to protect Long Islanders and ensure our utilities are prepared for the next storm that hits."
Legislation authored by Senator Kaplan that passed today include:
- Setting Standards For Medical Priority Situations: This bill, S.931A sponsored by Senator Anna Kaplan, creates a definition for medical needs that encompasses a realistic list of situations that demand priority restoration in an emergency to prevent a rapid and significant decline in a person’s health and well-being. Currently there is no standard to recognize that many medical conditions can be significantly triggered or exacerbated by a continued loss of power and that such conditions will have a significant adverse impact on that individual.
- No Service, No Charge: This bill, S.929B sponsored by Senator Anna Kaplan, will provide consumers with a bill discount when a contracted service provider fails to provide the agreed upon service.
“In the aftermath of Tropical Storm Isaias, I received dozens of calls from constituents who needed electricity to power their life-sustaining medical equipment, but who apparently were not considered an urgent priority for help by PSEG-LI. We can’t leave people in the dark when their lives are on the line, and I’m proud to have introduced legislation that will ensure vulnerable New Yorkers are given priority, and treated with care during an emergency,” said Senator Anna M. Kaplan. “Additionally, if a customer is dealing with an extended service outage through no fault of their own, the utility shouldn’t be charging them for the time that they had no service. My ‘no service, no charge’ bill will ensure ratepayers don’t foot the bill for their time in the dark, and it will incentivize utilities to restore service more quickly.”
Additional utility reform legislation passed by the Senate Majority, and supported by Senator Kaplan, includes:
- Utility Moratorium: This bill, S.1453A sponsored by Senator Kevin Parker, will extend the moratorium on utility shut-offs until December 31st, 2021, or the COVID-19 state of emergency is lifted or expires.
- Protecting Customers Lobbying Costs: This bill, S.1556 sponsored by Senator Kevin Parker, will protect utility customers from unknowingly paying for lobbying activity, including for political activity that may influence policies that go against the best interest of the customers.
- Utility Consumer Advocacy in the Public Service Commission : This bill, S.1199 sponsored by Senator Michael Gianaris, will require at least one commissioner of the public service commission to have experience in advocating in the interests of utility consumers.
- Emergency Response Plan Requirement: This bill, S.968 sponsored by Senator James Gaughran, will establish the criteria for the Long Island Power Authority and its service provider's emergency response plans, and subject them to review, approval and enforcement by the Public Service Commission.
- Stronger Utility Storm Response: This bill, S.4960 sponsored by Senator Shelley Mayer, will remove restrictions on the Public Service Commission's ability to penalize utility company violations and will enhance oversight of utilities to ensure improved storm planning and response.
- Professional Engineer Approval Requirement: This bill, S.544 sponsored by Senator Todd Kaminsky, will require a professional engineer to review and approve a gas infrastructure project to prevent public utility accidents from occurring in New York.
- Public Statements of Compensation: This bill, S.1544A sponsored by Senator Todd Kaminsky, will require large utility companies to publicly report the annual pay of their top employees.
- Reimbursement for Lost Food or Medicine: This bill, S.3784A, sponsored by Senator Leroy Comrie, will provide a customer reimbursement for lost food or medicine due to an extended power outage.