HOMETOWN HAPPENINGS: The Power We Have Over Our Power Company

Column by Town of Clarkstown Supervisor George Hoehmann

I know we are still recovering from two nor’easters that took quite a toll on all of us last week. Being without power for a prolonged period of time is more than just uncomfortable, it can be dangerous. Thanks to our town’s police, highway staff, and even the New York National Guard, we worked as best as we could to plow, clear trees and debris from roads and maintain public safety in the face of these storms.

But one dominant theme rang throughout the hundreds of texts, calls, Facebook messages and Tele Town Hall questions I juggled throughout the week: Where was Orange & Rockland? Why were they so slow to respond? Didn’t they learn from Superstorm Sandy? What can we do to put pressure on them to do better—a lot better—in the future?

I too shared the frustration everyone had with O&R’s response time. At the height of the storm, nearly 9,000 people in the Town of Clarkstown were without power. The lack of O&R’s presence was infuriating. While their consistent communication with me and other town officials was appreciated, as well as the hard work of O&R employees who were in the field, the overall slow response was unacceptable. They have to do better.

So, a lot of people have asked me, “Who has the power over our power company?” The answer is the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC). The PSC has complete regulatory and oversight authority over utilities, including how much they charge you, the consumer, for their services.

Many of us have seen our electric bills sharply increase over the last few months with the advent of their “Smart Metering” program, which makes their response time during the storms even more frustrating. You should know that O&R has filed a rate case with the PSC. In sum, O&R is seeking a $25 million increase in electric and gas prices.

Before telling you how you can express your concerns and ideas to the PSC directly, let me tell you what we are doing. Clarkstown will be joining with our neighboring towns and villages in opposing the upcoming O&R rate case before the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC).

We will work to oppose O&R’s rate increase on behalf of the residents of Clarkstown. We want assurances. I know you do too. Contact the PSC at 518-474-6530 or secretary@dps.ny.gov.