Owners of NYSEG, RG&E potentially face millions of dollars in financial penalties after wind storm

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) - The owners of Rochester Gas & Electric Corporation and NYSEG potentially face millions of dollars in financial penalties after a state investigation into the handling of the March 2017 windstorm.

“Given the findings, the Commission will now consider financial penalties on the companies for their apparent failure to follow Commission-approved emergency response plans,” Public Service Commission Chair John B. Rhodes said in a statement.

On March 8th, thousands of customers across Western New York lost power for days because of 60 mph winds.  There was widespread damage around the area.  The companies reported peak outages of approximately 123,000 and 48,000 for RG&E and NYSEG, respectively, according to the Commission.

Many customers were left in the dark in chilly temperatures, with no idea when their power would be restored. Governor Andrew Cuomo directed the New York State Public Service Commission to conduct an investigation into the restoration response by both RG&E and NYSEG. 

The results of the investigation, released Thursday, found that AVANGRID, which owns the two utilities, violated its own emergency response plan.

The findings spell out four violations for NYSEG and eight violations for RG&E while also uncovering other areas needing improvements as detailed in nearly 30 staff recommendations. The violations range from damage assessment, restoration, and poor staffing at the call center.

NYSEG and RG&E released a joint statement Thursday afternoon about the Commission's findings:

"NYSEG and RG&E are reviewing the findings from the New York State Public Service Commission’s investigation into NYSEG and RG&E’s preparation for and response to the March 2017 windstorm and will respond as directed. The unprecedented weather that resulted in the March windstorm posed great challenges to our communities, employees, contractors, assisting utilities, and municipal partners who all worked tirelessly to safely restore power to all customers.  NYSEG and RG&E’s priorities during any storm are the restoration of service to our customers and the safety of our communities, customers, employees and contractors."

The companies are directed to show how they are going to improve their storm management practices to ensure such mistakes are not repeated in the future. 

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