Cuomo Blasts Con Ed, Promises Probe of NYC Blackout
Cuomo said state regulators will independently investigate Con Ed's handling of the outage, which lasted about five hours and ended shortly before midnight. And he didn't shy away from the potential of kicking Con Ed out of New York if the findings show gross negligence.
"This is a franchise, this is a license," Cuomo said during an interview on WNYC, a public-radio station in New York City . "This is not a God-given right, and if they don't perform well, they can be replaced."
What happens next?
Con Ed said about 72,000 customers lost power Saturday night after a transformer blew, causing 30 blocks from Times Square to the Upper West Side to go dark starting at 6:47 p.m. Con Ed vowed to conduct "a diligent and vigorous investigation to determine the root cause of the incident."
But Cuomo said the largest utility company in the nation needs to do a better job and provide details about what caused the outage. "Con Ed said they don't know, which is the worst answer you can give," Cuomo said. Cuomo called the blackout a "pure operation failure" on the company's part and said the hours-long blackout was a public safety risk that could have plunged the city into chaos. "We were lucky that no one died," Cuomo said. "As governor of New York , I don't want to rely on luck."
In response to Cuomo's comments, Con Ed said in a statement, " New York's grid is the most reliable in the country, and we are focused on finding the root cause of Saturday's outage."
Ongoing issues with Con Ed
Saturday's blackout isn't the first incident involving Con Edison's 62 power stations in the city. In December, a voltage detector at a Queens substation malfunctioned, causing the night skies around New York City to turn blue.
The Democratic governor has been critical of the company in the past over reports of poor service, and in this case, he ordered the Public Service Commission to do an independent investigation. The company provides 3.4 million New Yorkers with electricity and natural-gas service to 1.1 million customers throughout Manhattan , Queens and the Bronx as well as Westchester County .
John McAvoy , the company's chairman, said Saturday night with Cuomo at his side that Con Ed quickly determined the reason for the outage. "It changed over time," he said. "Everybody didn't all lose power at 6:47 p.m. because some items became overloaded and we actually had to take action to shut off power to other customers to prevent them from equipment damage. But over that period of time we knew exactly which customers were effected."
He said he didn't think the system was at further risk in the coming days. "So we have nothing to indicate that," he said. "That being said, we have not done the root cause analysis that will identify exactly what caused this outage so you can't exclude that until you actually know what the conditions were that caused this."
Criticism of de Blasio
Cuomo arrived at the scene Saturday night while New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was in Iowa campaigning for president. De Blasio made it back to the city on Sunday, but the mayor drew heavy criticism for being absent during the blackout.
On Monday, the New York Post called for Cuomo to take steps to remove de Blasio from office. It said the city's charter and the state Constitution allows the governor to suspend the mayor for 30 days and then can take actions to ultimately remove him. But Cuomo, who has sparred with de Blasio for years, said Monday he would not do so. "I'm not going to exercise my legal authority to move against the mayor," Cuomo said.