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RG&E and NYSEG to pay $3.9M to settle March 2017 windstorm violations

The New York State Public Service Commission says that its staff, along with RG&E, NYSEG and other parties have a proposed settlement over the way the two utilities responded to the March 2017 windstorm.

The storm caused power outages to more than 250,000 customers and Governor Andrew Cuomo had ordered the PSC to investigate the way the two utilities had prepared and responded to that storm which left some customers without electricity for days.

The settlement calls for RG&E and NYSEG, which are both owned by the Spanish energy company Iberdrola, to pay $3.9 million. The money would be used to help customers by making investments designed to increase resiliency in future storms and improve emergency response. The cost will be borne by shareholders.

Officials say this settlement, which would resolve 12 alleged violations of the utilities' emergency response plans,  is the first-ever under the PSC’s stronger storm-response review powers, and a statement from the PSC says the settlement “sends a strong signal to other utilities that they must work to benefit their customers, not their shareholders, when it comes to their storm preparation and response.”

The settlement would pay for a number of projects including $1.25 million to put up utility poles made of composite materials, which officials say would help reduce the number of outages.

Other investments include money to help customers who have life-sustaining equipment in their homes get help in purchasing a backup power source, and buying mobile command centers to help make sure key company personnel are dispatched directly to the heart of affected areas.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.