Timeline of Events: Isaias
Tropical Storm Isaias landed on Long Island with rain and wind gusts of up to 70 miles per hour. The resulting damage to the electrical system resulted in approximately 645,000 customer outages. PSEG Long Island’s full restoration took eight days.
On August 5, 2020, the day after Tropical Storm Isaias made landfall on Long Island, LIPA formed an Isaias
Task Force to undertake a comprehensive, independent investigation into the failure of PSEG Long Island’s
communications and service restoration systems during the storm.
LIPA appointed its Senior Operations Oversight and Information Technology executives to lead an Isaias Task together with the heads of the Offices of Investigations and Enforcement and Resilience and Emergency Preparedness at the New York State Department of Public Service (DPS). The Task Force is supported by a team of independent utility consultants experienced in management, operations, and technical design of utility systems, as well as by LIPA staff.
On this same day, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo directed DPS to conduct an investigation into utility performance, including the performance of PSEG Long Island.
New York State Attorney General Letitia James launches an inquiry into PSEG Long Island’s preparation and response to Tropical Storm Isaias to determine whether violations of state law have occurred.
DPS issued a Notice of Apparent Violations and Direction of Prompt Remedial Action letter to PSEG Long Island for its apparent failures to properly anticipate and/or respond to the weather emergency in accordance with its approved Emergency Restoration Plan.
The New York State Legislature held a joint public hearing to address the emergency storm response and customer communication by utilities located in New York City, Long Island, Westchester County, and the greater Hudson Valley post Tropical Storm Isaias. LIPA’s Chief Executive Officer, Tom Falcone, testified.
LIPA’s Isaias Task Force published and presented the 30-Day Report to LIPA’s Board of Trustees at the September 23, 2020 Board Meeting.
The 30-Day Report identified PSEG Long Island’s most consequential failures during Isaias, provided preliminary results of the Task Force’s investigation of the technical causes, and recommended 39 immediate corrective actions for PSEG Long Island to implement by October 15.
On November 13, 2020, DPS provided a recommendation to the LIPA Board as a result of its investigation of PSEG Long Island’s storm response. DPS Staff identified more than 70 potential violations of PSEG Long Island’s Emergency Restoration Plan.
The DPS recommended, among other things, that LIPA:
- evaluate options to terminate PSEG Long Island as LIPA’s Service Provider;
- declare PSEG Long Island’s poor performance during Isaias as a first failure of the Major Storm Performance Metric as defined in the OSA; and
- seek to either terminate or renegotiate the OSA to enable greater oversight by LIPA and DPS.
LIPA’s Board of Trustees adopted nearly 100 recommendations from the 30-Day and 90-Day Task Force Reports to improve PSEG Long Island’s management, emergency response operations, and information technology.
The Task Force’s main recommendation was to change the way LIPA’s assets are managed to provide greater alignment and accountability to Long Island customers. The Board asked staff for an analysis of LIPA’s alternatives to implement this recommendation.
Based on the DPS investigation and the Isaias Task Force’s 90-Day Report, the Board also found that PSEG Long Island had failed to meet their contractual obligations to LIPA for storm restoration and ordered that LIPA staff investigate and pursue all contractual and legal claims.
LIPA’s Isaias Task Force issued a 90-Day Report to the LIPA Board of Trustees, elected officials, and stakeholders. The 90-Day Report expanded on the findings of the 30-Day Report and addresses broader questions on the effectiveness of PSEG Long Island’s management of utility operations.
The 90-Day Report concluded, based on extensive analysis, that the problems PSEG Long Island experienced restoring power during and after Tropical Storm Isaias were preventable and that their root cause was management failures rather than technical issues.
In fact, the investigation found that PSEG Long Island knew that critical information technology systems were performing poorly and too insufficient action to address the problems. In one such email dated July 16, PSEG Long Island staff alerted management on Long Island and in New Jersey that PSEG Long Island was “NOT even managing on a day-by-day basis and [PSEG Long Island is] definitely NOT prepared for a weather event. Management needs to know this is no closer to being resolved after 3 weeks.” However, PSEG Long Island management failed to take prudent steps to either fix the systems that were failing or to implement contingency plans.
PSEG Long Island management also failed to inform LIPA of these issues before, during or after the storm, which were only uncovered as a result of the investigation. Instead, PSEG Long Island attempted to deflect blame on Verizon for its own failures.
LIPA filed a complaint in the New York State Supreme Court against PSEG Long Island for breach of contract and specific performance related to Tropical Storm Isaias. The filing had been recommended by DPS and ordered by the LIPA Board of Trustees based on the investigative findings. The complaint seeks $70 million in damages related to PSEG Long Island’s inadequate design, implementation, and testing of its outage management and communications systems, which failed during the storm, and the absence of business continuity plans in the face of such failures during a major weather event.
LIPA published and presented the Phase I Options Analysis for the Management of LIPA’s Assets. The Options Analysis explored three potential alternatives for the future management of LIPA’s assets, including (i) privatization, (ii) continuing to contract day-to-day management to PSEG Long Island or another utility under a re-negotiated contract; and (iii) terminating the PSEG Long Island contract and directly managing LIPA operations.
The report found that privatization would significantly raise residential customer bills by an average of $32 a month. The report also recommended the types of changes that would be required under a reformed contract with PSEG Long Island. Finally, the report identified that terminating the PSEG Long Island contract and directly managing LIPA assets was not only feasible but could result in savings of up to $815 million over the term of the agreement.
The LIPA Board directed LIPA’s CEO to pursue both a renegotiation of the PSEG Long Island management contract as well as planning for termination of the PSEG Long Island contract, with LIPA taking over direct management of utility assets, and to report back no later than March 31, 2021.
In March, LIPA will release a Phase II Options Analysis with the results of two, Board-approved alternatives. (i) LIPA’s re-negotiation with PSEG Long Island and (ii) a plan to terminate the contract with LIPA taking over direct management of utility assets.
The Board expects to hold public forums to solicit the feedback of LIPA customers and stakeholders based on that report.