Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. and the Senate Democratic Majority passed legislation to ensure the utility services New Yorkers depend on meet additional criteria for safety and regulation. The package of bills will extend the COVID-19 moratorium for utility service disconnections, hold utilities accountable for failure to restore service, ensure utility companies do not pass on the cost of legislative lobbying to customers and clarify the medical equipment that qualifies for essential electric service. These bills will also ensure customers are compensated for service interruptions, provide a voice for consumer advocacy within the Public Service Commission and strengthen the standards for utility service provider’s emergency response plans. In addition to these measures, this package will require new gas infrastructure projects to be approved by a professional engineer and add public oversight to the pay rates of top utility executives.
“The repeated utility interruptions during storm conditions needs to be addressed. As increasingly more severe storms have impacted our communities, we realize the current process to hold utility providers accountable must be improved,” said Addabbo. “These legislative bills will ensure the utility needs of my constituents are being adequately and efficiently addressed, while also holding utility providers accountable for failure to provide agreed-upon services, or when exorbitant salaries and lobbying expenses are being passed onto ratepayers,” Addabbo added.
The legislative package included:
● Utility Moratorium (S.1453A): Extends the moratorium on utility shut-offs until December 31, 2021, or the COVID-19 state of emergency is lifted or expires.
● Protecting Customers Lobbying Costs (S.1556): Protects 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.
● Electricity Plan for Essential Medical Needs (S.931A): Identifies the specific medical equipment that qualifies for essential electricity and additional utility outreach during outages.
● Utility Reimbursement (S.929B): Provides consumers with a bill discount when a contracted service provider fails to provide the agreed-upon service.
● Utility Consumer Advocacy in the Public Service Commission (S.1199): Requires at least one commissioner of the public service commission to have experience in advocating in the interests of utility consumers.
● Emergency Response Plan Requirement (S.968): Establishes the criteria for the Long Island Power Authority and its service provider's emergency response plans, and subjects them to review, approval, and enforcement by the Public Service Commission.
● Professional Engineer Approval Requirement (S.544): Requires 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 (S.1544A): Requires large utility companies to publicly report the annual pay of their top employees.
● Reimbursement for Lost Food or Medicine (S.3784A): Provides a customer reimbursement for lost food or medicine due to an extended power outage.
● Stronger Utility Storm Response (S.4960): Strengthens the Public Service Commission's (PSC) enforcement powers in response to a pattern of neglect by utility providers in storm recovery efforts.
After passing the Senate, the package of bills was delivered to the Assembly for consideration.