State Leaders Call Joint Legislative Hearing on PSEG Response on Long Island

A downed tree on Ocean Road

With PSEG Long Island customers still without power Monday from Tropical Storm Isaias last week, more officials are calling for an investigation into why repairs are taking the utility company so long.

As of Sunday at 9 p.m., PSEG Long Island reported approximately 25,000 customers remained without power. There were about 420,000 affected customers after the storm, which PSEG Long Island said caused the worst damage in years.

According to the outage map Monday morning, Suffolk County has 23,582 customers, 663 of which are on the East End. PSEG Long Island said there are also new outages not directly related to the storm that continue to be reported and assessed.

While crews have been working around the clock to repair extensive damage, the expected deadline for full restoration has been pushed back several times.

“While we have made steady progress overnight, we are finding that each job is requiring more work than anticipated due to the extent of the storm’s damage,” PSEG Long Island said in a statement, adding that the more than 5,000 fallen trees or large limbs reported contributed to the amount of work.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced Sunday that a joint legislative hearing will be held to examine the response failures of various utility companies during the aftermath of Tropical Storm Isaias.

“Across the state we saw utilities fail and people lose power,” Stewart-Cousins said in a statement. “Today, we still have thousands and thousands of people waiting for their power to be restored with no clear end in sight. This is unacceptable. The joint legislative hearing will get to the bottom of what went wrong, why the response was so slow, and what can be done to improve responses going forward.”

The focus will be on the Long Island, Westchester, and New York City regions and will be stream live on the Senate and Assembly websites.

East End representatives, State Senator Kenneth LaValle, Assemblymen Fred Thiele and Anthony Palumbo, have demanded a full investigation of why the system failed and how it will be fixed going forward.

“It is unacceptable that after infusing substantial amounts of rate payer dollars into storm hardening and communication systems after Super Storm Sandy, many customers are still in the dark days after the storm, and could not get through to PSEG to report their outage,” LaValle said. “Communication in times of crisis is critical and PSEG’s system completely failed. Additionally, staging efforts were insufficient, and towns were left waiting on PSEG crews to clean up downed trees and wires. If this is a measure of their ability to respond, they are woefully unprepared for a major storm or hurricane.”

Thiele said the breakdown in communication and inadequate preparation is particularly problematic during a pandemic when people are forced to remain inside and work from home. “As we are only just entering hurricane season, PSEG must identify and immediately fix what is necessary to prevent future catastrophes like this one,” he said.

“PSEG has charged our residents millions of dollars under the guise of investing in improved communications and storm preparedness systems,” Palumbo said. “During the first tropical storm to come our way since then, these emergency services immediately collapsed on us. This is absolutely unacceptable and just another sign of how outdated our communications lines are and how ill-equipped PSEG is in responding to our needs and overhauling their antiquated systems to meet our present situation.”

Representative Lee Zeldin Tweeted concerns on Friday. He wrote, “After Super Storm Sandy, one of the top lessons learned was the need for the power company to have excellent communication with customers. When power is out, strong, reliable, active comms via mobile devices is key. That hasn’t happened this week after Tropical Storm Isaias.”

But, the utility assured the public that “the backbone of the system — transmission lines and substations — has been restored, and we are hard at work restoring the distribution system that serves our neighborhoods.”

PSEG Long Island took on an additional 1,000 workers Sunday and now has more than 5,000 lineworkers, tree trimmers and other personnel working in 16-hour shifts. Another 500 were expected to arrive Monday.

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