January 30, 2013

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Central Hudson wins praise for storm response at Moreland Commission hearing

L-R: Benjamin Lawsky, co-chair; Regina Calcaterra, exec. dir.;
Kathleen Rice, Nassau Co. DA

NEW PALTZ – A special panel appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo seeks answers to power grid vulnerability of devastating storms. Hurricanes Irene and Sandy struck the region, causing widespread outages for weeks and months.

The group is known as the Moreland Commission, and they met in New Paltz Tuesday night to hear testimony from Hudson Valley residents and officials.

The Commission originates with the 1907 Moreland Act, allowing a New York governor to establish the task force's investigatory authority, for the purpose of proposing changes to regulatory law. This gives the Moreland Commission clout which rivals the Public Service Commission. Among the recommendations are sharper enforcement teeth for the PSC, and leashing private utilities like LIPA.

"What we're looking at is the performance of the utilities," explained Commissioner Kathleen Rice, who is also the Nassau County District Attorney.

“They are charged as a commission with overseeing New York utility companies, but what our investigation has found is that they lack the kind of oversight they need to ensure high performance and full accountability,” Rice said.

Benjamin Lawsky, commission co-chair, said Moreland's mission is to find out what went wrong, why it happened, and how to fix it.

"The human and economic toll of recent storms has been immense," Lawsky said. "As we survey what went wrong, the role played by utility companies is absolutely essential and crucial.”

Ulster County Emergency Management Coordinator Arthur Snyder told the commissioners that Central Hudson proved a good partner following both hurricanes. He praised the local utility for smooth communications, including daily briefings with public officials, and an Internet application facilitating customer access to real-time grid maps.

Snyder recommended that distribution requirements for dry ice and water supplies be shifted, so that utility companies could focus on power restoration. "I think that those services can be provided by another agency," he said.

Former Crawford planning board chairman Phil Jameson suggested that the delivery grid is antiquated.

"When are we going to bury existing above-ground utilities?" Jameson asked. "Instead of spending billions of dollars after every storm, let's start planning a more reliable 21st century system."


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