ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday that two utility companies, RG&E and NYSEG, came to a $10.5 million settlement with New York state over failure to “adequately prepare for 2018 winter storms.”

According to the governor’s office, last year’s storms left more than 300,000 RG&E and NYSEG customers in the dark. This $10.5 million settlement is the largest ever for “failure to follow utility emergency response plan.”

“It is beyond unacceptable to leave hundreds of thousands of customers in the dark for as long as these utilities did last year,” Cuomo said in a press release. “This settlement makes crystal clear that utilities in New York have an obligation to prepare for severe weather and to develop robust storm response programs, and if they fail to adequately do that job we will hold them accountable and force them to change how they do business.”

As part of the settlement, both utility companies are required to develop more robust storm response programs, enhance communication and coordination with county governments and other relevant municipalities, and strength support for people on life-saving equipment.

To compensate customers, company shareholders will pay $10.5 million: $9 million from NYSEG and $1.5 million from RG&E, according to the governor’s office.

Officials say the money will be used to provide customer benefits at the direction of the Public Service Commission. In addition, the companies will do the following:

  • In the near term, NYSEG will hire and maintain 20 additional employees with storm restoration responsibilities; additionally, PSC staff and NYSEG will review long-term staffing needs and requirements;
  • NYSEG will maintain at least 175 damage assessment trained employees, excluding employees who perform restoration work during an emergency event;
  • NYSEG and RG&E’s Emergency Response Organization will form a group to develop a Storm Response Exercise program to include in-the-field activities and non-table-top storm response exercises, including testing their enhanced life-support equipment customer contact and tracking procedures, as well as communication and coordination with which will include municipal and county governments;
  • NYSEG agrees to retain a third-party consultant, subject to consultation with Commission staff, to audit and assess the companies’ storm response training and training exercise programs and NYSEG agrees that shareholders will bear any incremental costs for the term of engagement for the consultant.