Governor Andrew Cuomo threatened on Wednesday to pull the plug on utility providers throughout the state following a series of storms this summer that left New Yorkers without power for an extended period of time.
Through soon-to-be-introduced legislation in the State Senate and Assembly, the state would make a slew of reforms to the way utility companies are penalized after failing to provide service to consumers.
“The abuse of the utilities has to end,” Cuomo said. “They are not too big to fail. They’re not going to bully consumers. It’s over.”
The legislation, which has the support of a handful of legislators from Long Island, would increase the financial penalties the state can impose on utility companies. Additionally, it would make it easier for the state to revoke a utility company’s right to operate in New York, according to the governor.
The bill, which falls one step short of activists’ call to make utilities public throughout the state, is backed by a large portion of the Long Island legislative delegation, including state Senators Kevin Thomas and Jim Gaughran, and state Assemblymembers Taylor Darling and Charles Lavine.
“Utilities do not have a mandate. They are legally required to provide adequate and reliable service that’s in the public interest,” Gaughran said. “They’ve dropped the ball for far too long.”
Currently, the state has the ability to impose financial penalties up to $100,000 to utility companies who violate their terms of service, a sum of money, Cuomo said, companies have just factored into the cost of doing business.
“The penalty should be commensurate with the damage done by the utility companies,” Cuomo said.
Should power companies continue to provide inadequate service to paying consumers, the legislation would make it so that the state could revoke the companies’ franchise.
“God did not give the utility company the franchise,” Cuomo said. “The consumers did.”
Lastly, the legislation would impose a salary cap on high level executives at power companies operating in New York. Should an executive want a salary beyond the cap, shareholders of the company would pay the difference, taking the financial burden off of the backs of the consumers according to Cuomo.
While Cuomo only called out one utility provider by name – American Water, which operates in Long Island – the governor warned power providers throughout the state that action would be taken after what he viewed as a failed response to Tropical Storm Isaias over the summer.
The storm, which ripped through New York in August, caused the second-most power outages in Con Edison’s history. The company took weeks to restore power to all of its customers.
“New Yorkers will not be bullied and the utility companies have been bullying the people of New York,” Cuomo said. “The consumer has a right to expect service for their payment, that’s how life works.”