Andrew Cuomo Launches Commission to Figure Out Why New York Utilities Companies Suck


It’s no secret that Governor Andrew Cuomo is pretty pissed off with the lack of preparedness New York utilities companies had for Hurricane Sandy. It’s also no secret that New York utilities companies have absolutely sucked at responding to power outages caused by the storm — and Cuomo wants to know why.

The governor today issued an executive order to form a commission to figure out what caused these companies to so badly fail their customers following Hurricane Sandy, as well as their failures following Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.

According to the governor’s office, the commission “will be tasked to undertake a thorough review of all actions taken by
the power companies before and after these emergencies, and make
specific recommendations to reform and modernize oversight, regulation
and management of New York’s power delivery services.”

“From Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee, to Hurricane Sandy, over
the past two years New York has experienced some of the worst natural
disasters in our state’s history,” Cuomo says. “As we adjust to the
reality of more frequent major weather incidents, we must study and
learn from these past experiences to prepare for the future.”

According to Cuomo, “the existing labyrinth of regulatory bodies, state agencies and
authorities, and quasi-governmental bodies has contributed to a
dysfunctional utility system.”

The governor’s office says
the commission will have the power to subpoena and examine witnesses
under oath. The Commission members include:

Co-Chair Robert Abrams, former Attorney General of New York State

Co-Chair Benjamin Lawsky, Superintendent of the Department of Financial Services

Peter Bradford, former Chair of the Public Service Commission

Tony Collins, President of Clarkson University

John Dyson, former Chairman of the New York Power Authority

Rev. Floyd Flake, Senior Pastor of Greater Allen African Methodist Episcopal Cathedral

Mark Green, former New York City Public Advocate

Joanie Mahoney, Onondaga County Executive

Kathleen Rice, Nassau County District Attorney

Dan Tishman, Vice Chairman at AECOM Technology Corporation, and Chairman and CEO of Tishman Construction Corporation

See Cuomo’s entire executive order below:



WHEREAS, beginning on October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy caused
massive power outages throughout Long Island, New York City,
Westchester, Rockland and surrounding counties, affecting over two
million customers, including ninety percent of customers on Long Island;

WHEREAS, storm emergencies have effected, as well as thousands of
businesses and private and public services providers charged with the
protection of the health and safety of New Yorkers, including hospitals,
adult homes, nursing homes and other residences serving persons with
disabilities and other special needs; and

WHEREAS, storm emergencies crippled major public transportation
systems, including mass transportation, bridges, tunnels, roads and
several waterways, throughout the region; and

WHEREAS, the loss of power adversely affected a variety of other
critical systems including communications services, gasoline terminals
and stations, natural gas delivery to residences and steam delivery to
large residential and commercial complexes, and

WHEREAS, on November 7, 2012, a Nor’easter with snow exacerbated the
suffering, property damage and power outages sustained in some of the
same areas affected by Hurricane Sandy; and

WHEREAS, such sustained disruption of the power supply and its
cascading damage to other critical systems in many communities,
neighborhoods and industrial areas, as well as the continued prevalence
of downed utility lines, has jeopardized the health and safety of New
Yorkers and undermined public confidence in the public utility service
system; and

WHEREAS, in August and September of 2011, as a result of Hurricane
Irene and Tropical Storm Lee over one million customers in New York
State lost power and some communities suffered prolonged power outages
which not only impacted Long Island, New York City, Westchester,
Rockland and surrounding counties, but also the counties of Albany,
Broome, Chenango, Chemung, Clinton, Columbia, Delaware, Dutchess, Essex,
Franklin, Fulton, Greene, Hamilton, Herkimer, Montgomery, Oneida,
Otsego, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Tioga, Tompkins,
Warren and Washington; and

WHEREAS, in December 2008, an ice storm caused over 300,000 power
outages in New York State, and many customers were still without power a
week after the storm; and

WHEREAS, these recent and past events indicate that utility emergency
response planning and procedures must anticipate future emergencies and
be prepared.

WHEREAS, utilities are required to provide safe, adequate and reliable services to the public; and

WHEREAS, while the New York State Public Service Commission is the
regulatory agency charged with oversight of private utilities in the
State of New York, there exists a labyrinth of other regulatory bodies,
state agencies, authorities and quasi-governmental bodies including but
not limited to the New York Power Authority, the Long Island Power
Authority, and the New York State Energy and Research Development
Authority, whose overlapping mandates, jurisdiction and responsibilities
have contributed to a dysfunctional utility system; and

WHEREAS, serious questions have been raised about the adequacy of
utility management, structures, resources, the current regulatory
framework and oversight to ensure effective preparation for and response
to natural disasters by utilities in this State, particularly in light
of the increasing frequency and intensity of such disasters as well as
the licensing, certification, supervision and regulation of the power
industry in New Yorker under existing law; and

WHEREAS, to maintain public confidence in the provision of vital
services by utilities, it is manifestly in the public interest to study,
examine, investigate and review each and every component of the
provision of power to New York State: and

WHEREAS, Article IV, Section 3, of the New York Constitution vests
the Governor with the obligation to take care that the laws are
faithfully executed;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, ANDREW M. CUOMO, Governor of the State of New
York, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and
laws of the State of New York, do hereby order as follows:

1. Pursuant to Section 6 of the Executive Law, I hereby appoint a
Commission to: (A) study, examine, investigate and review: (i) the
emergency preparedness and response of utilities during and following
emergency weather events, including the performance of the utilities
during and following emergency weather events; (ii) the adequacy of
present laws, rules, regulations, practices and procedures with respect
to utilities’ emergency preparedness and response; (iii) the adequacy of
existing oversight and enforcement mechanisms; (iv) the structure,
organization, ownership, financing, control, management and practices of
the utilities as they affect emergency preparedness and response; and
(v) the provision of utility services to New York State under the
existing legal regulatory framework, including but not limited to the
jurisdiction, responsibilities and missions of the New York Power
Authority, the Long Island Power Authority, the New York State Energy
and Research Development Authority, as well as the Public Service
Commission; (B) report and make recommendations for legislative, policy
and regulatory changes, as well as reforms as deemed appropriate in
utility structure, management and practices, to best protect and serve
the public’s interest with respect to emergency preparedness and
response, and the provision of safe, reliable, responsive utility
services; and (C) review any other matters or activities which may
affect the issues herein before specified;

2. The Commission is hereby empowered to subpoena and enforce the
attendance of witnesses; to administer oaths or affirmations and
examine witnesses under oath; to require the production of any books,
records or papers deemed relevant or material to any investigation,
examination or review; and to perform any other functions that are
necessary or appropriate to fulfill the duties and responsibilities of
office, and I hereby give and grant to the Commission all powers and
authorities which may be given or granted to persons appointed by me for
such purpose under authority of Section 6 of the Executive Law. The
Commission may exercise any such powers in cooperation with any other
body or government agency.

3. The Commission shall provide a report and recommendations at
the conclusion of its work, and may issue interim, preliminary and
periodic reports and recommendations.

4. Within this Executive Order, “utilities” refers to the entities engaged in the provision of electric, gas and steam.

5. Every State department, agency, office, division, board,
bureau, council, authority and public benefit corporation shall
cooperate with the Commission and shall furnish such information and
assistance as the Commission determines is reasonably necessary to
fulfill its duties.

G I V E N under my hand and the Privy Seal of the State in the City of
Albany this thirteenth day of November in the year two thousand twelve.


Secretary to the Governor