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Westchester Legislators Challenge Utilities, PSC

SOMERS, N.Y. - Westchester legislators Peter Harckham (D-Katonah) and Michael Kaplowitz (D-Somers) joined forces on Friday afternoon to summarize the failures of Con Edison and NYSEG during the recent storm and to propose some solutions.

The press conference took place in front of the Town Hall in Somers, described by Kaplowitz as “the epicenter of the power outage in Northern Westchester.”

Kaplowitz cited the “tens of thousands of people who were severely impacted” by the latest snow storm and estimated the ultimate economic impact, including costs to individuals, businesses, schools, towns and the electric companies themselves at about a billion dollars.

He described it as a “huge, huge problem” and asked, “What went wrong and how can it go right?”

Harckham answered by saying there were “systemic failures all along the way. What did they learn from Irene? Why can they not figure out how to implement line crews with town highway crews,” he asked, and why can they not have an accurate website?

“Why are we having the same conversations over and over? Don’t they recognize the critical areas we have already told them about?” he said.

Kaplowitz said, “We keep blaming the utilities and they do bear a lot of responsibility. But what about the Public Service Commission ?"

“We have asked for a meeting and they have declined to show up. They refused to come from Albany to Westchester and the Hudson Valley. What went wrong? “We are calling for an investigation of the Public Service Commission (PSC). The governor says it will be investigated,” he said.

Kaplowitz said it is unthinkable that a suburb of New York City would be without power for so long. “They must look around the country. See what is working and what is not.”

“There should be evacuation planning and emergency planning. The Boy Scouts are right -- Be Prepared. We need liaison with the utilities in all town halls. You can’t have one person covering a lot of regions.”

Harckham added, “The PSC must be held accountable. Come down and do your job. Meet us in White Plains.” He asked, “Why won’t NYSEG share their maps with us? Why do they send representatives who don’t know the area? How can a person from Schenectady figure out where Katonah’s Wood Road is?”

The presentation concluded by reinforcing three points:

1. Now that the complaint is public and transparent, something must be done.

2. The Public Service Commission should be prepared for any emergency long before it happens. This includes having equipment in place so they only need to fly people in.

3. It should have been done after Irene and before this latest storm.

Harckham added a caveat, “We are coming into another winter season!”

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