Jamaica senator calls to hold Con Edison accountable for blackouts in southeast Queens and beyond

Photo courtesy of the New York State Senate

After blackouts swept through southeast Queens following the heat wave and ensuing storm last week, state Senator Leroy Comrie called a hearing to interrogate Con Ed’s preparedness and response to the disruptions.

Comrie, chair of the Senate Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, joined legislators in both houses in his appeal to hold Con Edison accountable, including Assembly members Michael Cusick and Amy Paulin along with Senator Kevin Parker, chair of the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee.

“Millions of New Yorkers rely on Con Edison for electrical service, and at the peak of the summer, blackouts are not only tremendously inconvenient — they endanger our most vulnerable communities, like seniors and folks with medical conditions, and put lives at risk. The public deserves to know what mistakes and misjudgments led to this massive failure on the part of Con Ed and what the company is doing to ensure it does not happen again,” said Comrie. 

The senator’s investigation dovetails with the response from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, who both suggested that the recent spate of service failures had put Con Edison’s contract with the Public Service Commission in jeopardy. 

The massive July 13 outage that shut off the power in a large portion of the west side of Manhattan that left 73,000 customers in the dark.

Con Edison has since explained that the outage stemmed from 65th Street substation, where a protective system designed to detect and isolate faulty cables didn’t kick in properly.

The energy provider also knowingly shut off power to thousands of southern Brooklyn residents amid the heat wave, explaining that the decision was “necessary to prevent longer outages.”

Comrie pointed out that Con Edison’s operations depend on the consent of the state, meaning that the company ought to be accountable to the public. He said that the company is going to have to answer for how it is demonstrating a long-term commitment to reliability, equity and sustainability.

“Our city will face hotter summers and a greater number of extreme weather events in the coming decades as a result of climate change, so knowing that Con Edison is willing and able to respond to that reality and prepare accordingly is paramount,” said Comrie.

Otherwise, he said that the state will consider other options to ensure adequate service. 

No date for the hearing has been determined yet.

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