Official Point Of View
We have all seen and read the barrage of articles related to the countless problems and issues brought on by Sandy. It has been almost 16 months since the storm. As I traveled throughout the affected communities in the immediate aftermath of Sandy, the destruction was immeasurable. However, compounding the physical damage was the lack of clear communication, particularly from LIPA.
For most families in Rockaway, including my own, the power was out for nearly 14 days or unfortunately, others experienced much longer delays. In the days following the storm, we were confronted with the harsh reality that our electric infrastructure was not prepared for a light drizzle, let alone Sandy. However, the most egregious offense was the uncertain timeline for power restoration that lasted for months.
Immediately after Sandy, I cosponsored legislation to completely overhaul LIPA and provide reliable service and accountability to Rockaway families and businesses. We had a bipartisan agreement on a new structure to improve performance and strengthen oversight. The legislation, signed by the Governor, completely overhauled utility operations to bring real oversight, ease the burden on ratepayers and improve emergency and storm response.
I repeated numerous times during Sandy relief efforts that the time for accountability would come and those responsible for failing our families would have to answer for their negligence. That time has finally come and progress that has been made. While we see small glimmers of hope in various areas, there are very few concrete examples which illustrate that we are stronger and more prepared than we were prior to the storm. One of our greatest victories was a demand for change in our electric utility, and we succeeded. We rid ourselves of LIPA’s incompetence. We called for safe and reliable power service for our community, our businesses, and our families. We now have PSEG, our new electric and power provider.
PSEG, a subsidiary of PSE&G based in New Jersey, has a long history and reputation as an industry-leading electric company dedicated to providing their customers with exceptional customer service, best-in-class reliability and storm response, and a strong level of involvement in the communities they serve.
They took over electric operations on January 1st, 2014 and immediately stepped up in every way that LIPA failed. In the months leading up to the transition they inspected and performed a complete assessment of the electric grid and infrastructure to determine which areas needed the most attention. They worked with elected and community leaders to ensure a smooth transition and made multiple commitments so our families would not be left in the dark again.
PSEG has committed to maintain a high standard and have put extra emphasis on community service and outreach. In less than two months after coming to Rockaway, PSEG has already hit the ground running. PSEG held a successful community information session with my office and are currently scheduling upcoming events with representatives to look at cost savings for local customers. PSEG is helping customers manage costs and energy usage, from Balanced Billing to a comprehensive home energy assessment. They are committed to serving the residents of Rockaway and this upcoming summer, the first ever customer service center in Rockaway is expected to open.
Further, during recent snow storms PSEG quickly responded and communicated with affected homeowners during outages. This has been a particularly harsh winter and storms have battered our community, but each time PSEG’s response has been impeccable.
Finally, to ensure there is accountability in electric operations and delivery, the state created a new Office of the Department of Public Service to review and make recommendations on operations, service and performance of LIPA and its service provider including PSEG. The department is responsible to annually review the PSEG emergency response plan and make recommendations to improve any deficiencies to make sure another Sandy does not happen. The department will also review the service provider's performance when responding to widespread outages after a major storm and make recommendations to improve response.
We finally have an operator in place that will provide the service and communications our families need and the mechanism to ensure that there is sufficient oversight and accountability.
As always, my office is here to help in any way possible.
Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, resident of Rockaway, represents the 23rd District.