New legislation has been proposed in New York that would allow lawmakers to hold utility companies more accountable for their failed responses to storm events.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced a new, widely supported bill that will strengthen the state’s enforcement tools following repeated widespread failures to adequately prepare or respond to storms in recent years.
If passed by the Legislature, the new law would increase penalties on shareholders for failing to adhere to emergency response plans and other violations of the Public Service Law (PSL), regulations, or orders of the Public Service Commission (PSC).
In addition to the new guidance, the PSC would also be tasked with studying whether some private water suppliers should come under municipal control.
"God did not give the utility company the franchise - the people of the state gave the utility company the right to operate," Cuomo said. "If the people of this state allow the utility company to operate, the people of the state can revoke their right to operate.”
The bill would also make it easier to revoke utility franchises for repeated failures, and would cap the salaries of utility executives.
“So you have a penalty or you have a revocation—but both are very hard to affect right now by the current law, and we need to change the law,” Cuomo added. “New Yorkers will no longer be bullied by utility companies who have long believed they are too big to fail.”
Cuomo said that under the current rules, electric utilities provide the PSC with emergency response plans and are required under such plans to prepare for service outages as a result of extreme weather.
However, he said that recent events have illustrated that the penalties have not been a sufficient deterrent against actions or inaction that violates such emergency response plans.
“The abuse of public trust by utility companies will not be tolerated in New York State,” he continued. The penalty should be commensurate with the damage caused by the utility companies.
“By removing the caps on penalties and easing the path to franchise revocation, utility companies will be held accountable."
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