Con Edison, others to pay $86 mln in New York settlements over Tropical Storm Isaias

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK, July 15 (Reuters) - Consolidated Edison Inc (ED) and two other companies will pay more than $86 million to resolve New York state claims over their response to Tropical Storm Isaias, which knocked out power to more than 900,000 utility customers last August.

Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Thursday that Con Ed and its Orange & Rockland Utilities affiliate will pay $82.05 million, while Frontier Communications and Central Hudson Gas & Electric will pay a respective $2.7 million and $1.5 million.

Con Ed's settlement also covered its handling of Brooklyn and Manhattan power failures in July 2019, and a steam pipe rupture in Manhattan's Flatiron district in July 2018.

The state's Public Service Commission had sought as much as $137.3 million in penalties from Con Edison, Orange & Rockland and Central Hudson, after finding that utilities in New York responded too slowly, were understaffed or struggled to communicate with customers as the storm intensified.

In a statement, Con Ed said upgrades have reduced its storm outages by about 20%, and helped make its power delivery systems "resilient in the face of climate change, which is making severe weather events more frequent and devastating."

Cuomo said New York has reached nearly $190 million of settlements to resolve all open Isaias investigations, including a nearly $72 million settlement in March with phone and cable TV provider Altice USA Inc. (ATUS)

Isaias was briefly a category 1 hurricane but had been downgraded by the time it reached New York, though it still brought strong winds and heavy rain to the state.

The commission said on Thursday it had approved the construction of a $132 million, 100-megawatt battery-based energy storage facility in Astoria, Queens, in keeping with the state's clean energy push to reduce reliance on fossil fuels when power demand peaks.

The facility will be built by East River ESS, LLC and is expected to be operational by Dec. 31, 2022, the PSC said. It added that it could potentially store enough energy to power over 16,000 homes.

"Energy storage is vital to building flexibility into the grid," said PSC Chair John B. Howard in a statement. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; additional reporting by Arpan Varghese in Bengaluru; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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