New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn piled on the criticism of Con Edison’s response to Superstorm Sandy this morning, a day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo admonished state utilities for their sluggish efforts in returning power to thousands of homes throughout the state.
Speaking at a breakfast hosted by the Association for a Better New York, Quinn scolded Con Ed for not promptly shutting off power at the 14th Street substation that exploded, and proposed that New York City require utility lines be buried underground in sections of the city that are vulnerable to flooding. Addressing reporters after her speech, Quinn said that she did not think that City Council needed approval from the state to make such a requirement, and that there would be a proper evaluation done of the areas where underground lines are feasible.
“We wouldn’t say, ‘Tomorrow every neighborhood in the Bronx, Queens, or Staten Island that has overhead power would have to dig underground,’ ” Quinn said. “In fact, there are some places where digging underground would be more dangerous. What we want to do is figure out where the most vulnerable places are, phase in a plan that would be reasonable over a period of time to begin getting those New Yorkers relief.”
Quinn also mentioned in her speech that she “would not tolerate” Con Ed passing the costs of the underground lines to ratepayers.
In response to Quinn’s comments, Con Ed spokesman Chris Olert said that shutting down the 14th Street substation would have resulted in the same power outages that customers experienced in Manhattan, with the same restoration period. In a statement, Olert added that Con Ed is open to moving forward and discussing the proposals for underground power lines, including the potential price tag, but cautioned that underground power lines is not necessarily a cure-all for flooding disasters.
“Con Edison will look at proposals to move equipment underground and other issues to further protect residents and vital infrastructure involving major storms,” he said. “The company looks forward to working with all parties to discuss and review new technology and infrastructure options. We should all recognize that Sandy proved no system is entirely weather-proof. The storms’ devastating impact affected overhead customers as well as those in flood areas served by underground equipment.”