New York's governor has proposed legislation that would dramatically tighten utility regulations, expand penalties
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- Oct 30, 2020 10:19 am GMTOct 29, 2020 8:45 pm GMT
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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to hold the state's electric and water utilities to a higher standard and increase the penalties against them if they do not meet that standard.
The new legislation, which Cuomo introduced on Oct. 28, would remove the caps on penalties that utilities pay for storm response violations and expedite the process to revoke franchise licenses from utilities who regularly fail to provide reliable service. The proposed bill would also direct the state's Public Service Commission to cap the portion of utility executives' salaries funded by ratepayers.
Cuomo said his proposal is a direct response to the failures of utilities to respond to the inevitability of more extreme weather events. In a press release published Oct. 28, Cuomo's office said the existing penalties were not strong enough.
"Under current rules, electric utilities provide the [public service commission] with emergency response plans and are required under such plans to prepare for service outages as a result of extreme weather," the release said. "Recent events have illustrated that the penalties in the [public service law] have not been a sufficient deterrent against actions or inaction that violates such emergency response plans."
On the accelerated process to revoke franchise licenses from utilities, Cuomo said the people of the state give the utility companies the right to operate and thus should be able to revoke that right after repeated failures.
The legislation comes on the heels of Hurrican Isaias, which hit New York over the summer. Cuomo's administration has placed heightened scrutiny on the state's utilities and their reported failure to keep customers safe. The state is also in the middle of an investigation of those failures.
More regulation on utilities and heightened penalties for failure to adequately respond sound like progressive policies, especially as we head into a future of more extreme weather events. But what kind of effect will this have on utilities and their operations?