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Governor Cuomo threatens to switch NY utilities

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is no longer Mr. Nice Guy when it comes to the region’s power companies. A week after Superstorm Sandy hit the Northeast, more than a million people are still without power. The governor is threatening to find other utilities if electric companies like ConEd and LIPA don’t perform.

“They’re not in the Old Testament. They’re not in the New Testament. God never said New York will have these utilities forever,” Cuomo said at a Monday news conference

But is changing utilities even practical?

“It’s kind of like using a nuclear weapon,” said Ashley Brown, Executive Director of Harvard’s Electricity Policy Group.

There are things companies could do to reduce outages, but the public would have to pay.

“Could we have a system that’s 100% reliable?” Brown asks. “I don’t know if we can have 100% but we can probably improve reliability enormously, but that requires spending a lot of money.” 

It’s common for elected officials to chastise power companies while residents wait for the lights to come back on. In the past, cities like Chicago have threatened to municipalize their privately-owned utilities, but little typically comes of the rhetoric.

“It may be that the company is asked later on to try and get its act together,” says consultant Ken Rose.

In the end, these utilities are probably not going anywhere.

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