Friday, August 10, 2007

National Grid

I was pleased to wake up this morning and see a letter in the Times Unoin from Patricia Acampora, who is the Chairwoman of the New York State Public Service Commission. The letter concerned National Grid, and the power shut-off that the City of Troy suffered on July 10th.
By now, you likely know the story. National Grid, in an effort to avoid a major collapse of its power systems removed Troy from the grid. While we understand that sometimes measures that drastic are needed, following that move, National Grid failed to communicate exactly what was happening, which caused quite a bit of trouble throughout the day.
While we came through with flying colors, we immediately asked for an investigation into National Grid and its policies. The Public Service Commission responded quickly, and is in the process of putting together a report. Below is a letter concerning that very report.
I am writing in response to a July 20 editorial and a subsequent newspaper article on July 29 related to National Grid's response to recent severe thunderstorms, and its lack of communication with public officials, most notably Troy Mayor Harry J. Tutunjian.
During emergency situations that storms can sometimes cause, it is to be expected that citizens look to elected officials to make sure there are plans in place to protect safety and property. Unfortunately, National Grid's efforts to avert permanent damage to its infrastructure by shedding load in Troy on July 10 resulted in much confusion for the public and elected officials.

Indeed, when Mayor Tutunjian met with my staff he indicated that the incomplete information provided by National Grid during the outage made it difficult for his city to make decisions about opening centers to provide shelter and other emergency measures. This behavior on National Grid's part was surprising. In other parts of the state, National Grid has demonstrated significantly improved communications in press conferences and briefings with local officials, such as during recent storm events as seen in the last October snowstorm in western New York.

I was disappointed that National Grid was not more proactive here in the Capital Region. National Grid's emergency notification procedures should be the same for all emergencies throughout its service territory.
The public should be assured that system reliability is a major priority of the commission. National Grid will conduct a full investigation of its emergency procedures during the recent outage and file a report with my staff. My staff is also conducting its own independent investigation.
The results of the investigations will determine the areas for improvement in National Grid's system reliability and emergency procedures.
However, the most essential lesson learned by National Grid is the importance of communications with the public and local officials for all emergency events.