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Blackout 1977: Conned Again

God Gets a Bum Rap

Despite Con Ed’s claims in the wake of the blackout that only an “act of God” breached the elaborate sys­tem of defenses it had mounted fol­lowing the great failure of 1965, in fact, a crucial link in its supply system broke down in September of last year. And, astoundingly, Con Ed had no intention of repairing it until May of 1978, 10 months from now.

Officials at both the Public Service Commission and at Public Service Electric & Gas Co. — the big New Jersey utility that exchanges Elec­tricity with Con Ed — have admitted that, had this line been in operation, large amounts of electricity could have flowed into New York during the height of the crisis.

In his press conference last week, Charles Luce, chairman of Con Ed, made no mention of this line, nor indeed have other company officials. Maps issued by the company appear to depict the bro­ken-down line as if it were in operating condition.

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The line in question is a 345-kilovolt (kv) stretch of cable running from the Hudson terminal of the Public Service Electric & Gas Co. across the bottom of Manhattan to the Farragut station of Con Ed in Brooklyn. At this point electricity generated in New Jersey could have been switched in massive quantities back to central Manhattan, across Brooklyn, up through Queens, and indeed could have surged powerfully through the entire Con Ed system.

The transmission cable was taken out of service on September 4, 1976, because of a failure in a phase-angle regulator, which modulates the flow of elec­tricity. Con Ed, apparently, had no standby equip­ment and did not repair the regulator because it saw no pressing need for the line. A spokesman for the New York Public Service Commission, the state regulatory agency that oversees Con Ed’s operations, pointed out that Con Ed was selling less electricity than anticipated and hence, did not push forward with the repairs.

The broken-down 345-kv line seems to have been a lynchpin of Con Ed’s system. Modern electric supply networks depend on a system for exchanging power with other utilities in a series of regional grids. In the case of Con Ed, power is, of course, to a major extent, generated by the company itself. But it is also extremely dependent on interchanges with other power grids that can feed it electricity in times of need. Thus, Con Ed can look to the Northeast, where the New England power pool can help out. And it can turn to the north, for assistance from the New York power pool.

[related_posts post_id_1=”607848″ /]

But, perhaps most important, it can turn south to the so-called PJM interchange for a potentially huge surplus of electricity. This is a pool made up of the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. In the past it has been difficult for private utility systems, such as Con Ed, to hook into the mass power blocs — the huge TVA system, the western public cooperatives, etc. — that are available in other parts of the United States. Big public systems have a hard time meshing into the private utility networks because the latter have not had transmission lines big enough to carry the electricity. It is rather like a turnpike suddenly meeting a bridle path, with a corresponding paralysis at the meeting point.

One of the results of the 1965 blackout was a consensus by state and federal government and the private utilities to see what could be done to boost capacity and better coordinate interchanges among the regional power pools and their member utilities. It should be pointed out that subsequent reforms were largely voluntary efforts undertaken by the companies. While the Federal Power Commission, which under the law regulates interstate whole­sale shipment of power, could set standards for interconnections and power pools, it has preferred to work on a voluntary basis with the private companies. It encouraged them to form advisory committees, which have laid out general plans for improvement and which the FPC endorses as a virtual national policy.

[related_posts post_id_1=”722370″ /]

All in the Family

Over the past 10 years these reforms and guidelines have been bundled together and put out as a National Power Survey. But the informal, ad hoc nature of the proceedings, left largely in the hands of private industry, has made it impossible to tell how effective the post-1965 operation has been.

Last week’s blackout starkly exposed the apparent nonchalance of the Federal Power Commission, the state Public Ser­vice Commission, and Con Ed itself in devising a truly crisis-proof system.

Consider the Con Ed system. In essence, the company operates a transmission loop. Power from New England and the New York power pool can surge down through Millwood in Westchester, where it is joined by power produced by Con Ed’s Indian Point plant. In addition, two lines — one 500-kv and the other 345-kv — can send electricity out of the PJM pool into a substation at Ramapo on the New York­–New Jersey border, and hence to the Con Ed main line at Buchanan. This, then, is the main highway for electricity, whether purchased from outside or produced by Con Ed, and it pours straight down into the main Con Ed service area that culminates in the huge New York market.

Obviously, this is only part of the system since a cutoff of supply would leave the city helpless. So there is a bottom to the loop, consisting of two transmission lines. One of these is a 230-kv cable that attaches the PJM system to New York via Linden­-Goethals (Staten Island) Brooklyn and then into the rest of the system. The second point at which the loop is closed is the previously mentioned 345-kv line between New Jersey and Brooklyn.

What happened last week was that the “act of God” — lightning — effectively closed the northern corridor. Since the 345-kv had been broken down and unre­paired since September 1976 — and since the company’s generating facilities could not be brought on stream fast enough — the pressure to supply the loop fell largely on the Linden-Goethals line. In effect, this cable became the lifeline to the PJM pool. For a time, the Long Island Lighting Company was also able to put electricity into the city through Jamaica. But the Lilco system was no match for the occasion, especially since it is interconnected to power in the Northeast through a relatively small cable under Long Island Sound.

Consequently, Lilco shut down supplies to New York at 9:25 p.m., and, four minutes later, the phase-angle regulator at Con Ed’s end of the Linden-Goethals link broke. Almost at once “Big Allis” at Ravenswood shut itself down to avoid burning out under the load.

[related_posts post_id_1=”722698″ /]

 

If Only…

According to officials at the Public Ser­vice Electric & Gas Co., there was a possibility that, had the 345-kv line been in service to help out the hard-pressed 230-kv cable, things might have gone differently. Mr. Wei Shing Ku, transmission-planning engineer with the New Jersey utility, told us, “If we had had the two ties in service and if they did not trip during the power surge, it is possible you could have alleviated the blackout.”

The question for the various investiga­tions now under way is why the Federal Power Commission did not insist on an adequate interchange system.

The same question can be more severely posed to the Public Service Commission, which appears to have behaved in a lethargic manner. And, finally, shopowners and the citizenry of New York City will no doubt be questioning this faulty interchange sys­tem in litigation against Con Ed. Indeed, Con Ed ratepayers might legitimately ask why this line, paid for with their money, has been allowed to be out of commission for so long. They may very well also ask whether their money, which went to con­struct the Astoria 6 and Indian Point 3 power plants (taken over by the Power Authority of the State of New York) might not have better been spent on a really strong interchange system to guard against catastrophe and other acts of God.

As for Con Ed: It is too easy, in the manner of much press comment, to dismiss the utility as a hapless victim of a cabal of incompetent engineers. The fact is that, since the 1965 blackout, this company has time and again vigorously opposed efforts within the federal government to establish a national network of regional power grids to cope with supply and de­mand in an efficient way.

[related_posts post_id_1=”721001″ /]

Set Against Reform 

In the mid-1960s, when interchange, or “reliability” legislation was before Congress, staff aides working on the bill recall that Con Ed opposed it on grounds that it would impede the company from doing what was needed. This same legislation, fortuitously, is emerging this week from the house commerce committee. Con Ed officials cheerfully told us on Monday that the bill “wouldn’t affect us,” because Con Ed was “solidly interconnected.” The spokesman went on to declare the company was opposed to the legislation because, as he put it, reliability was tied to rates, and in that case, the state regulatory commis­sions do the most “efficient” job. In a roundabout way he was echoing what all private utilities have said since the early part of this century. They do not want federal intervention in their areas where they have worked out comfortable relationships with state bodies.

What Is Needed Now

It is almost a waste of time to investigate the rusted, archaic structure of Con Ed with a view to ever putting it in reasonable running order. The basic problem is to reduce the consumption of electricity and at the same time, wherever possible, move toward the introduction of alternative en­ergy sources. These alternatives — and here we are thinking mainly of solar, small-­scale hydro, and wind — should be taken up through a decentralized scheme, imple­mented in the City of New York neighborhood by neighborhood. It is hard to believe, no matter how much goodwill the officials of Con Ed might have, that they can run a profit-oriented company based on reduced sales. And reduced sales is precisely what is needed.

We are not talking about reducing the supply of electricity to poor people or small businessmen or, indeed, to middle-class residential users. We are talking rather about cutting back consumption by the huge office buildings, which are the real gluttons of electricity in this city.

The best thing for New York would be for the city council to initiate a study on the feasibility of taking over Con Ed. As events in San Francisco have shown, it is not necessary to purchase all parts of the system outright. Those features of the Con Ed apparatus that are of use to the citizen­ry can be leased for some period of time.

[related_posts post_id_1=”719616″ /]

A new public organization needs to be set up to design and implement an energy system for the city. This would involve phased introduction of solar and wind energy. As the City of Hartford now illustrates, it is quite possible to create munici­pal organizations that put unemployed peo­ple to work in the construction, installation, and maintenance of all sorts of solar plants, and in the introduction of insulation.

Overall, New York should increasingly be looking toward an energy system that employs a strengthened electrical-inter­change grid to back up alternative means of energy production. There will always be people — even in the midst of a blackout — ­who declare such proposals to be rankly utopian. Even as they despise the future (which is, for anyone looking around the U.S., not so far distant) they should contemplate what the current policy portends: increased means of electrical production, both within the Con Ed area of operation and within the region as a whole. Such means will include nuclear power and reintroduction of coal-fired electricity gen­eration, with attendant pollution. It also will undoubtedly result in the development of offshore oil and gas, with concomitant processing industries onshore.

Filth at sea will be married to filth on land. Where maps from the National Insti­tutes of Health now show eruption of cancers of all sorts in the refining and chemical industrial areas of New Jersey, similar charts for the last quarter of the century will surely reflect the spread of this disease from New Jersey’s cancer alley all around New York and the North­east.

The blackout revealed the city to be at a crossroads in energy policy and at a politi­cally apt time.

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Let the Candidates Speak

Every mayoral candidate should be compelled to set forth a coherent energy program for the future of the city. Energy has far greater importance than many of the issues on which candidates have been quick to take positions. A reasonable cam­paign plank should begin with a program of public takeover of Con Ed and include a detailed plan for introducing alternate en­ergy. Such an energy policy should contain a general outline of what the candidate sees as the future industrial base of the city. The provision of such an energy policy would be a speedy way of assessing just how pro­gressive each candidate is in areas of vital concern to the city’s future.

 

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Con Ed Hits “Son Of Sal” Murder Victim’s Family With $734 Bill

Had Mohammed Gebeli not been viciously murdered — allegedly by New York’s latest serial killer, Sal Perrone — he probably would have continued to pay the electric bill at the Brooklyn store he owns, which just so happens to be the scene of his grisly murder. But Gebeli was murdered — and now Con Ed wants his family to pay up.

In a letter dated November 6, four months after Perrone allegedly murdered Gebeli, Con Ed alerts the shopkeeper’s family that they’re on the hook for a $734 electric bill for the 77 days his Valentino Fashions clothing store was an active crime scene.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/son-sal-victim-family-fights-ed-unpaid-bill-article-1.1210605#ixzz2DihjzA9D

“Since
we were unable to gain access to the meters, we are starting legal
action for the removal of our equipment,” Con Edison’s letter reads. “If
it is necessary to obtain a court order for a city marshal to repossess
our meters, there will be a fee of $45.”

The utility’s credit operations also warned of a $115 collection fee, a
$130 meter-removal charge and a $26 reconnection fee once the billing
issue is resolved.

“You can prevent having your service turned off and avoid these extra
charges by prompt payment of the total amount due,” the letter reads.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/son-sal-victim-family-fights-ed-unpaid-bill-article-1.1210605#ixzz2DihjzA9D

“Since
we were unable to gain access to the meters, we are starting legal
action for the removal of our equipment,” Con Edison’s letter reads. “If
it is necessary to obtain a court order for a city marshal to repossess
our meters, there will be a fee of $45.”

The utility’s credit operations also warned of a $115 collection fee, a
$130 meter-removal charge and a $26 reconnection fee once the billing
issue is resolved.

“You can prevent having your service turned off and avoid these extra
charges by prompt payment of the total amount due,” the letter reads.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/son-sal-victim-family-fights-ed-unpaid-bill-article-1.1210605#ixzz2DihjzA9D

]
“Since we were unable to gain access to the meter, we are starting legal
action for the removal of our equipment,” the letter states. “If it is
necessary to obtain a court order for a city marshal to repossess our
meter, there will be a fee of $45.”

Con Ed also warns the family
of a $115 collection fee, a $130 meter removal charge, and a $26
reconnection fee if they want to have service restored.

“How is this fair? It’s like a slap in the face,” Gebeli’s son told the Daily News yesterday.

We left a message with Con Ed hoping to get an explanation. We’re yet to hear back.

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Con Ed: 2012’s Winner of Most “Outstanding Reliability” Award (Unless You Need Electricity)

Need a laugh this morning? Well, you’re in luck.

Con Ed — the same company whose executives have been subpoenaed by a government commission tasked with figuring out why New York’s utilities companies failed their customers so badly in terms of restoring electricity following Hurricane Sandy — is the proud winner of the 2012 ReliabilityOne “Outstanding Reliability Performance” award for the Northeast region.

If this sounds like an Onion article, we assure you, it’s not. The utilities giant even put out a press release touting its recent accolades, which you can read in its entirety below (unless, of course, you still don’t have electricity).

Enjoy.

]

NEW YORK – Con Edison has been named winner of the 2012 ReliabilityOne™ Award for the Northeast Region for Outstanding Reliability Performance by PA Consulting Group for the company’s electricity delivery in 2011. Con Edison also received an award for Best Overall System-Wide Reliability.

“These awards for reliability are very gratifying, especially with all of the challenges and the extraordinarily difficult circumstances we have faced in the last month” said John Miksad, Con Edison’s senior vice president for Electric Operations. “With the hardships so many in our service area have faced with the onset and aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, this affords us only a moment before we redouble our efforts to further strengthen our systems against the possibility of unprecedented weather that our region just experienced. We remain committed to serving our customers going forward with the excellence symbolized by these honors.”

All utilities operating electric delivery networks in North America are eligible for consideration for the ReliabilityOne™ Award. There are a total of five regional awards including Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Plains and West. The selection of provisional recipients is based primarily on system reliability statistics that measure the frequency and duration of customer outages. After provisional recipients are selected, each company undergoes an on-site certification process, which provides an independent review and confirmation of the policies, processes and systems used to collect, analyze and report a company’s reliability results.

“As the U.S. has seen an increase in the number of extreme weather events over the past few years, the utility industry must be at the top of its game in terms of outage response to major events,” said Jeff Lewis, PA Consulting Group’s ReliabilityOne™ Program Director. “Con Edison has demonstrated its ability to utilize new technologies and industry best practices to safely and efficiently restore power, while finding new channels to communicate the best information to customers, regulators, and employees.”

About Con Edison
Con Edison is a subsidiary of Consolidated Edison, Inc. [NYSE: ED], one of the nation’s largest investor-owned energy companies, with approximately $13 billion in annual revenues and $40 billion in assets. The utility provides electric, gas and steam service to more than three million customers in New York City and Westchester County, New York. For additional financial, operations and customer service information, visit us on the Web at www.conEd.com, at our green site, www.coned.com/thepowerofgreen, or find us on Facebook at Power of Green.

About PA Consulting Group
PA Consulting Group is a firm of more than 2,000 people, specializing in management and IT consulting, technology and innovation. Independent and employee-owned, we operate globally from offices across Europe and the Nordics, the United States, the Gulf and Asia Pacific. PA Consulting works with businesses and governments to anticipate, understand and meet the challenges they face. We have outstanding technology-development capability and a unique breadth of skills, from strategy to performance improvement, from HR to IT. PA Consulting’s expertise covers energy, financial services, life sciences and healthcare, government and public services, defense and security, transport and logistics, telecommunications, consumer goods and automotive. PA Consulting Group has partnered with energy clients for over 25 years to help them understand the challenges they face and define and implement an effective strategic response. PA Consulting Group’s 2012 ReliabilityOneTM study, based on standard industry reliability statistics that measure the frequency and duration of electric power outages, has been analyzing electric utility performance since 1987. For more information about PA Consulting Group, visit www.paconsulting.com/energy.

Clarification: An earlier version of this post contained the following paragraph: Con Ed, the same company that following Hurricane Sandy has been unable
(because of electrical equipment damaged by flooding — see
clarification below) to restore power to more than 1,000 New Yorkers (a
month later) — and whose executives have been subpoenaed by a
government commission tasked with figuring out why New York’s utilities
companies failed their customers so badly — is the proud winner of the
2012 ReliabilityOne “Outstanding Reliability Performance” award for the
Northeast region.”

A Con Ed spokesman contacted us this morning to explain that the reason the utility company hasn’t restored power to more than 1,000 customers is because their equipment was damaged by flooding. He says electricians need to fix the equipment before Con Ed can restore power. He points out that Con Ed was more efficient in restoring power to more than a million people following Hurricane Sandy than it was following Hurricane Irene, which caused significantly less outages than last month’s storm.

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Andrew Cuomo Launches Commission to Figure Out Why New York Utilities Companies Suck

It’s no secret that Governor Andrew Cuomo is pretty pissed off with the lack of preparedness New York utilities companies had for Hurricane Sandy. It’s also no secret that New York utilities companies have absolutely sucked at responding to power outages caused by the storm — and Cuomo wants to know why.

The governor today issued an executive order to form a commission to figure out what caused these companies to so badly fail their customers following Hurricane Sandy, as well as their failures following Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.

According to the governor’s office, the commission “will be tasked to undertake a thorough review of all actions taken by
the power companies before and after these emergencies, and make
specific recommendations to reform and modernize oversight, regulation
and management of New York’s power delivery services.”

]

“From Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee, to Hurricane Sandy, over
the past two years New York has experienced some of the worst natural
disasters in our state’s history,” Cuomo says. “As we adjust to the
reality of more frequent major weather incidents, we must study and
learn from these past experiences to prepare for the future.”

According to Cuomo, “the existing labyrinth of regulatory bodies, state agencies and
authorities, and quasi-governmental bodies has contributed to a
dysfunctional utility system.”

The governor’s office says
the commission will have the power to subpoena and examine witnesses
under oath. The Commission members include:

Co-Chair Robert Abrams, former Attorney General of New York State
Co-Chair Benjamin Lawsky, Superintendent of the Department of Financial Services
Peter Bradford, former Chair of the Public Service Commission
Tony Collins, President of Clarkson University
John Dyson, former Chairman of the New York Power Authority
Rev. Floyd Flake, Senior Pastor of Greater Allen African Methodist Episcopal Cathedral
Mark Green, former New York City Public Advocate
Joanie Mahoney, Onondaga County Executive
Kathleen Rice, Nassau County District Attorney
Dan Tishman, Vice Chairman at AECOM Technology Corporation, and Chairman and CEO of Tishman Construction Corporation

See Cuomo’s entire executive order below:

E X E C U T I V E O R D E R
DESIGNATION PURSUANT TO SECTION 6 OF THE EXECUTIVE LAW

WHEREAS, beginning on October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy caused
massive power outages throughout Long Island, New York City,
Westchester, Rockland and surrounding counties, affecting over two
million customers, including ninety percent of customers on Long Island;
and

WHEREAS, storm emergencies have effected, as well as thousands of
businesses and private and public services providers charged with the
protection of the health and safety of New Yorkers, including hospitals,
adult homes, nursing homes and other residences serving persons with
disabilities and other special needs; and

WHEREAS, storm emergencies crippled major public transportation
systems, including mass transportation, bridges, tunnels, roads and
several waterways, throughout the region; and

WHEREAS, the loss of power adversely affected a variety of other
critical systems including communications services, gasoline terminals
and stations, natural gas delivery to residences and steam delivery to
large residential and commercial complexes, and

WHEREAS, on November 7, 2012, a Nor’easter with snow exacerbated the
suffering, property damage and power outages sustained in some of the
same areas affected by Hurricane Sandy; and

WHEREAS, such sustained disruption of the power supply and its
cascading damage to other critical systems in many communities,
neighborhoods and industrial areas, as well as the continued prevalence
of downed utility lines, has jeopardized the health and safety of New
Yorkers and undermined public confidence in the public utility service
system; and

WHEREAS, in August and September of 2011, as a result of Hurricane
Irene and Tropical Storm Lee over one million customers in New York
State lost power and some communities suffered prolonged power outages
which not only impacted Long Island, New York City, Westchester,
Rockland and surrounding counties, but also the counties of Albany,
Broome, Chenango, Chemung, Clinton, Columbia, Delaware, Dutchess, Essex,
Franklin, Fulton, Greene, Hamilton, Herkimer, Montgomery, Oneida,
Otsego, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Tioga, Tompkins,
Warren and Washington; and

WHEREAS, in December 2008, an ice storm caused over 300,000 power
outages in New York State, and many customers were still without power a
week after the storm; and

WHEREAS, these recent and past events indicate that utility emergency
response planning and procedures must anticipate future emergencies and
be prepared.

WHEREAS, utilities are required to provide safe, adequate and reliable services to the public; and

WHEREAS, while the New York State Public Service Commission is the
regulatory agency charged with oversight of private utilities in the
State of New York, there exists a labyrinth of other regulatory bodies,
state agencies, authorities and quasi-governmental bodies including but
not limited to the New York Power Authority, the Long Island Power
Authority, and the New York State Energy and Research Development
Authority, whose overlapping mandates, jurisdiction and responsibilities
have contributed to a dysfunctional utility system; and

WHEREAS, serious questions have been raised about the adequacy of
utility management, structures, resources, the current regulatory
framework and oversight to ensure effective preparation for and response
to natural disasters by utilities in this State, particularly in light
of the increasing frequency and intensity of such disasters as well as
the licensing, certification, supervision and regulation of the power
industry in New Yorker under existing law; and

WHEREAS, to maintain public confidence in the provision of vital
services by utilities, it is manifestly in the public interest to study,
examine, investigate and review each and every component of the
provision of power to New York State: and

WHEREAS, Article IV, Section 3, of the New York Constitution vests
the Governor with the obligation to take care that the laws are
faithfully executed;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, ANDREW M. CUOMO, Governor of the State of New
York, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and
laws of the State of New York, do hereby order as follows:

1. Pursuant to Section 6 of the Executive Law, I hereby appoint a
Commission to: (A) study, examine, investigate and review: (i) the
emergency preparedness and response of utilities during and following
emergency weather events, including the performance of the utilities
during and following emergency weather events; (ii) the adequacy of
present laws, rules, regulations, practices and procedures with respect
to utilities’ emergency preparedness and response; (iii) the adequacy of
existing oversight and enforcement mechanisms; (iv) the structure,
organization, ownership, financing, control, management and practices of
the utilities as they affect emergency preparedness and response; and
(v) the provision of utility services to New York State under the
existing legal regulatory framework, including but not limited to the
jurisdiction, responsibilities and missions of the New York Power
Authority, the Long Island Power Authority, the New York State Energy
and Research Development Authority, as well as the Public Service
Commission; (B) report and make recommendations for legislative, policy
and regulatory changes, as well as reforms as deemed appropriate in
utility structure, management and practices, to best protect and serve
the public’s interest with respect to emergency preparedness and
response, and the provision of safe, reliable, responsive utility
services; and (C) review any other matters or activities which may
affect the issues herein before specified;

2. The Commission is hereby empowered to subpoena and enforce the
attendance of witnesses; to administer oaths or affirmations and
examine witnesses under oath; to require the production of any books,
records or papers deemed relevant or material to any investigation,
examination or review; and to perform any other functions that are
necessary or appropriate to fulfill the duties and responsibilities of
office, and I hereby give and grant to the Commission all powers and
authorities which may be given or granted to persons appointed by me for
such purpose under authority of Section 6 of the Executive Law. The
Commission may exercise any such powers in cooperation with any other
body or government agency.

3. The Commission shall provide a report and recommendations at
the conclusion of its work, and may issue interim, preliminary and
periodic reports and recommendations.

4. Within this Executive Order, “utilities” refers to the entities engaged in the provision of electric, gas and steam.

5. Every State department, agency, office, division, board,
bureau, council, authority and public benefit corporation shall
cooperate with the Commission and shall furnish such information and
assistance as the Commission determines is reasonably necessary to
fulfill its duties.

G I V E N under my hand and the Privy Seal of the State in the City of
Albany this thirteenth day of November in the year two thousand twelve.

BY THE GOVERNOR

Secretary to the Governor

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Restaurants Reopen in the West Village, Despite Lack of Electricity

Flood waters rising in the West Village after the power went out. Looking toward the Hudson River from the intersection of Perry and Washington streets.

In the West Village, prospects for power reinstatement seem grim. The explosion at the 14th Street and Avenue D transformer farm could be seen from over the tops of buildings here on Monday evening around 8:30, and the neighborhood went dark about 15 minutes later. But all is not gloom and doom in the streets, where massive amounts of debris are still being cleaned away.

Tentatively, restaurants have started to reopen. Surprisingly, most are still without electricity. How do they do it? Gas is the one precious utility that hasn’t ceased, and eateries are putting candles on the tables and firing up their ovens. The wood-oven places led the way.

Last evening, Barbuto was open on Washington Street just south of the Meat Packing District, less than 24 hours after water had been literally lapping at their doors. The place, with 80 or so seats, was nearly full, and you could see the black-hatted staff turning out the signature roast chickens in the window.

Lievito was open, too, a wood-oven pizza place on Hudson Street, and so was Irish gastropub Dublin6. It was kind of eerie seeing these restaurants open. The candles were inadequate to fully light the spaces, and the patrons were barely perceivable in the dim flickering light.

Whether these restaurants heroically opened to comfort a beleaguered neighborhood, or simply to burn off food supplies that would otherwise go bad, is immaterial. They lent a much-needed sense of community and friendliness to an increasingly depressing situation.

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Hurricane Sandy Causes Explosion At Manhattan ConEd Plant *VIDEO*


The video embedded above shows an explosion at the Con Ed plant at 14th Street and the FDR. It was first posted on the web by TrillianMedia.

Power currently is out in much of lower Manhattan following what authorities say was the brunt of Hurricane Sandy.

So far, authorities the storm has claimed five lives, including a 30-year-old Queens man who was crushed by a falling tree.

Check back for updates.