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Cuomo to begin investigation of state utilities in response to Sandy

Students from at Thomas Elementary School in Abilene, Texas, on Tuesday, Nov. 13, pack about 400 donated socks, gloves and hats to be sent to superstorm Sandy victims in New Jersey. Abilene Reporter-News

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By Reuters
Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012, 8:10 p.m.

NEW YORK — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, frustrated with lengthy power outages since superstorm Sandy, on Tuesday began an investigation by a new commission into the state's utilities, saying that failings exposed by the storm demand a major overhaul of the industry.

Public outcry over power companies' response to the storm may provide momentum to make long-overdue changes, Cuomo said at a briefing to mark the partial reopening of a tunnel connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan that was flooded in the storm.

Fueled by widespread power outages, storm victims' ire has been rising since it struck on Oct. 29. While hundreds of thousands of people have had power restored, more than 130,000 customers remain without electricity and heat, and residents have complained of getting confusing or little information from the power companies.

Almost all of state-owned Long Island Power Authority's 1.1 million customers lost power in Sandy, and the utility, among the slowest to recover, has come under fierce criticism.

“We can't go through something like this again. We shouldn't go through something like this again, and learning from it is very, very important,” Cuomo said.

“I believe something like this is going to happen again,” he said. “I think we need to be better prepared.”

Cuomo said he signed an executive order creating a commission to investigate the response, preparation and management of the power companies and to recommend ways to reform the industry's oversight and management. Changes would have to be approved by the state legislature, he said.

“You're talking about a whole bureaucracy that has to be changed,” he said. “I don't believe you can fix it, I believe it has to be overhauled and you need a new system.”

The commission will investigate the New York Power Authority, LIPA, the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority and the Public Service Commission that regulates a number of utilities, including the publicly traded Con Edison Inc., which supplies power to New York City and its northern suburbs.

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