Gianaris Seeks Con Ed Reforms After Steam Pipe Explosion
As the first suit against Con Edison arising from last week's Midtown Manhattan steam pipe explosion was filed on Monday and affected business owners pressed the giant utility for financial assistance, Assemblymember Michael Gianaris called for significant reforms of Con Ed operations to make the utility more accountable.
The Astoria lawmaker, one of the utility's severest critics, asked: "How many disasters will Con Edison preside over before we realize the need to reform this unaccountable monopoly? Until Con Edison faces consequences for its failures, we can expect continued catastrophes to occur year after year."
Gianaris (D- Astoria) added, "Con Edison's claim that it is the most reliable utility in the country is as believable as its assertion that only 400 customers were affected by last year's blackout [in Western Queens].
"One thing we know for certain is that Con Edison is the least reliable in telling the truth."
The first suit resulting from the steam pipe explosion was filed by Francine Dorf of Brooklyn. She claimed she was treated for smoke in her eyes and lungs after fleeing through asbestos-tainted debris from her office workplace on East 42nd Street.
Gianaris said the huge steam eruption at 41st Street and Lexington Avenue and last summer's nine-day blackout in Western Queens provided enough reasons for the state legislature to enact stringent laws to force Con Ed to perform better or face steep financial penalties, including reimbursing affected companies for lost business.
"They have no reason to improve because there's not a damn thing we can do about it when they screw up," said Gianaris after the explosion of the 83- year-old steam pipe last Wednesday.
Following the blackout last August in Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside and Elmhurst, Gianaris formed and headed a state Assembly Task Force that investigated Con Ed's failures.
Out of the Task Force's deliberations came a package of bills aimed at the power industry intended to force Con Ed to compete for the right to manage the city's infrastructure.
The legislation also mandated annual independent audits of Con Ed's performance and data by the Public Service Commission. It also called for significant increased reimbursements by requiring compensation of as much as $10,000 for lost business for every two days without power and also an increase in reimbursements for damaged electrical equipment and perishable items, he said.
Gianaris noted that a review based on annual reports on outages from the New York state Department of Public Service over the last six years showed that in a typical year an average of 2,010,403 Con Edison ratepayers out of a total of about 9 million can expect to lose electricity.
"More disturbing is the fact that outages have been increasing over time," Gianaris said. "Over the last two years alone, the number of New Yorkers experiencing an outage increased by a whopping 112 percent!"