2007_03_manholeevents.jpg

2007_03_licnet.jpgLast week, the city released 247-page report that offered a "mild rebuke" to Con Ed over last summer's blackout. Two outside lawyers from Couch and White wrote the report that finds Con Ed did some things wrong, but felt criticism over not shutting down the LIC Network (which many critics think would have shortened the blackout) was unjustified, because no one knows if that would have helped things.

The NY Times summarized the key findings from the report:

-Con Edison’s reliance on phone calls from customers caused it to underestimate the extent of the blackout and “hindered its ability to make informed decisions.”
- Some “vulnerable or failure-prone equipment” that failed during the blackout should have been replaced earlier.
- Con Edison’s decision to reduce voltage throughout the network in western Queens backfired, worsening damage to secondary wires and inconveniencing customers “for longer than was necessary.”
- The utility did not adequately oversee contractors managing a major project to upgrade circuit breakers, a failure that “contributed to or prolonged” the blackout.
- Con Edison designed its system under the assumption that “extreme heat events” would occur once every three years, when in fact such events have occurred 15 times over the past 11 years.
- The utility failed to carry out some of the 44 recommendations made by the Public Service Commission after a similar blackout in northern Manhattan in 1999.

The report also stated, "From the onset, the city was heavily involved in maintaining public safety, providing human resource services to affected residents and assisting Con Edison in its recovery efforts." Yeah, but only after the city actually acknowledged there was a wider problem, because the city was relying on Con Ed's low and incorrect estimates of how many people were affected!

The City Council was upset that the report wasn't as critical AND that the city waited over three weeks to give them the actual report. You can read the whole 247-page report here (DF). The Public Service Commission's report about the blackout was much more critical. And Con Ed is planning a $1.4 billion response plan to prevent blackouts like last year's... but there's no indication that will work either.

Graphics from the city's report on the Queens blackout