A special committee of the Nassau County Legislature will reconvene next week for the first time in more than a year to call on PSEG Long Island representatives to explain the utility’s response to mass power outages in the wake of Tropical Storm Isaias.
The Superstorm Sandy Review Committee plans to meet at 10 a.m. Aug. 13 with both PSEG-LI representatives and the county’s Office of Emergency Management, with the goal of making recommendations to fix response issues raised in the last few days. Denise Ford (R-Long Beach), chairwoman of the six-legislator-committee, said the committee is convening to not only review the problems of this week but also to “get ahead” of storms that may hit Long Island in the coming months.
“We want to do this now because of the fact that so many people have complained that they’re out of service for a number of days,” Ford said. “Some of the legislators and other people have said that they have not been able to get responses from PSEG, and I’m sure that they are overwhelmed by a storm that was so early in the hurricane season and the damage that it has done.”
After striking Long Island on Tuesday, more than 420,000 PSEG-LI customers were left without power, a situation that was only compounded by communications issues. As of Thursday morning, more than 160,000 homes and businesses were still without power.
Ford said the committee will focus on lapses in communication by PSEG, which she sees as one of the main issues in the power company’s storm response over the last few days.
“I think if you could tell people that ‘we could get you back on by Friday at 5,’ it may not be something that somebody would like, but even though they’re angry, they know that it will be resolved,” Ford said. “Nothing’s worse than when they said, ‘well, we don’t know when we’re going to get you back,’ and so many people are stuck in their homes because of the virus.”
Ford added the committee will not only make suggestions for improvement but may also make recommendations to the state legislature, as the state is responsible for power companies.
The committee, which held its first session in August 2018 and last met in May 2019, was formed with the stated goal of using the lessons learned after Hurricane Sandy in 2012 to plan and strategize for future disasters. Along with Ford, the committee is comprised of Legislators Steven Rhoads (R-Bellmore), James Kennedy (R-Massapequa), Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove), Debra Mulé (D-Freeport), and Josh Lafazan (I-Syosset), an independent who caucuses with the Democrats.
Lafazan called the breakdown in communication by PSEG Long Island “absolutely unacceptable,” and said he hopes the committee is able to get answers from the company following struggles from a storm that “could have been a lot worse.”
“During a time of crisis quite frankly, utilities have to be at their best and the lack of communication in which my office has been fielding literally hundreds of complaints and trying to answer for folks, the utilities should be able to give those answers in the first place,” Lafazan said. “So the communication breakdown for whatever is the contributing factor here needs to be remedied immediately.”
Lafazan added that an important population his office has worked to help in the last few days is senior citizens, many of whom only have landline phones and are in need of electricity to power health-related devices.
“So many seniors in my community utilize oxygen and need power, and have devices that rely on power and need to be charged,” Lafazan said. “These seniors, they need to have their calls answered and they need to have their needs met immediately during a crisis.”
In addition to the county hearing, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered the state Department of Service to investigate “failures” by PSEG Long Island and Verizon, who PSEG blamed following the storm for poor phone, text and internet connections. Several members from Long Island’s Democratic state senate delegation also called on New York Attorney General Letitia James to investigate PSEG Long Island, Verizon, and the Long Island Power Authority.
A spokesperson from PSEG Long Island did not immediately return a request for comment.
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