By: Jared Evan
Lawmakers questioned Con Edison President Timothy Cawley at a joint hearing held by the State Senate and State Assembly in lower Manhattan that focused on Con Edison’s preparedness and their much criticized response to the blackouts that impacted thousands of New Yorkers on several hot, humid summer days, while one New York representative hinted at a public takeover of Con Ed, The Brooklyn Eagle reported.
Con Edison President Timothy Cawley opened the hearing with a defense of the company’s performance this summer and its overall reliability.
Crain’s reported that Sen. Michael Gianaris was one a few state lawmakers to insinuate that Con Edison’s drive to profits could be at odds with its ability to provide reliable electricity.
Gianaris asked the executive about the “virtues” of an investor-owned utility, compared to a publicly owned system.
“Certainly, you folks can look at that,” Cawley responded. “I would say that we are heavily regulated, and, in many cases, private-owned enterprises focus on efficiency and ensuring the job gets done well and in a way that pleases the customers.”
State Sen. Kevin Parker, chairperson of the Energy Committee, said he went into the hearing with a lot of questions on his mind. “I appreciate Con Ed being open and making themselves available. For me, this hearing was about three things: One, what happened, two, why did it happen and three, what will we do going forward?” said Parker, a Democrat representing Flatbush, East Flatbush and Ditmas Park, Brooklyn Eagle reported.
Brooklyn was a hot topic at this hearing. Last July Con Edison deliberately shut off power to 33,000 Brooklyn customers in Brooklyn as a way to cope with increased power use during one of the hottest days of the summer.
Residents from Flatbush to Bath Beach were left in the dark for more than five hours. The lengthy blackout also hit places like Bergen Beach, Mill Basin, Canarsie, Flatlands and Georgetown, The Eagle reported.
The idea of a publicly run power grid was first floated by Mayor de Blasio in July. “Con Ed is a private company that is heavily regulated, but they are still a private company and they’re not accountable to the public in the way a public agency would be,” de Blasio said at a July 22 press conference.
“Con Edison is among the most expensive utilities for customers in the nation,” Sen. Michael Gianaris stated at the hearing
“I wonder if that is related to the fact that you are a private entity, you are making profits, paying dividends and at the same time you are a monopoly. I question whether we have turned the economic incentives upside down”, the Queens representative said according to Crain’s.
Sen. Brad Hoylman, who represents part of the West Side that lost power, called the outages a “national embarrassment” that cost Con Edison the confidence of public officials., Crain’s reported.
A blackout in the heart of Times Square and Hell’s Kitchen in July made front page headlines nationwide as Broadway Shows were interrupted in their peak business on a Saturday night, ruining the evening of thousands of Broadway tourists.
Con Ed has invested more than $1 billion yearly in improving its system, and the company delivers power to its Westchester County and city territories eight-times more reliably than national averages, Con Ed president Cawley pointed out in defense of the company.