While still catching heat for their response to Tropical Storm Isaias, utility companies in the Hudson Valley have been ordered to pay a record settlement for their response to the 2018 winter storms that left thousands in the dark.
The New York State Public Service Commission announced a $10.75 million settlement with Con Edison and Orange & Rockland Utilities over their preparation and responses to storms in 2018 that left 293,000 customers without power.
Under the terms of the agreement, the companies agree to settle alleged violations of their emergency response plans for a combined $10.75 million in ratepayer benefit.
Con Edison has been ordered to pay $9.5 million, while Orange & Rockland will foot $1.25 million of the fine. On May 20 last year, the companies also adopted the combined 144 storm plan recommendations made by the Department.
The settlement is the largest ever of its kind for failure to adequately execute a utility emergency response plan.
According to the Public Service Commission, the settlement funds will be used for the companies’ electric ratepayer benefit at their next rate cases, allowing for ratepayer input on the funds’ use. Both companies also admitted to certain violations of their emergency response plans and the associated Commission orders and regulation.
The first storm, Winter Storm Riley, occurred on March 2 and 3 2018, resulting in nearly 150,000 outages in Con Edison's service territory and 50,000 customer outages in O&R's service area.
Days later, on March 7, the companies' territories were struck again by Winter Storm Quinn, which resulted in 66,000 customer outages for Con Edison and 31,500 customer outages for O&R.
Officials noted that the current settlement is unrelated to ongoing investigations of Con Edison and other New York utility companies’ response to Isaias.
"Utilities have a duty to their customers to be prepared for a storm, to restore power as safely and as quickly as possible, and to keep customers accurately informed during any such event," Commission Chair John Rhodes stated.
"The terms of the joint settlement are consistent with the environmental, social, and economic policies of the Commission and the State and in the public interest. Our decision today clearly demonstrates that if a utility fails, in whole or in part, to meet this standard, the company's shareholders will be held accountable.”
Con Edison offered a statement following the announcement of the settlement.
“As we do after every large event, we examined our performance following storms Riley and Quinn and looked for ways to improve,” company officials stated. “We then took numerous steps to protect our customers and equipment, enhance restoration processes, and improve our information systems.
“We are engaged in continuous improvement in our reliability, resiliency and storm response, including implementation of a climate change resilience plan, because it is essential at a time when climate change is making severe weather events more frequent and devastating for our customers.”
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