Power Struggle: ConEd forced by regulator to inspect, upgrade M.T.A. equipment

In addition to inspecting its own equipment, Con Edison, by an unusual ruling of the New York Public Service Commission, is being compelled to perform maintenance and upgrades on subway electrical equipment owned by the M.T.A.

Last summer, as previously reported by the Daily News, the M.T.A had inflated the number of subway power delays by expanding the definition to “power-related,” to provide Governor Cuomo with evidence that Con Ed was a major source of subway delays experienced by riders.

Cuomo then issued issued a press release, using this enlarged figure as air cover, to call on the Commission to investigate the utility. This led to to an August 2017 ruling that significantly enlarged Con Ed’s role in electrical operations within the subway, and required monthly progress reports.

All four commissioners that form the Commission are Cuomo appointees, although two, Diane Burman and James Alesi, are Republicans.

Some actions in the ruling seemingly follow common sense: the company needed to update its power distribution drawings, which had proved to be a sticking point during an incident at 7 Av — the utility’s drawings did not match how cables were actually laid out. It also needed to maintain a stockpile of backup generators and make sure personnel would be available for responding to M.T.A.-specific issues, among other items.

Photo Credit: Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin

However, some appear to shift responsibility that usually lies with the M.T.A. to the utility.

In particular, the company was charged with inspecting the “MTA’s interlocking station electric equipment,” jointly with the agency.

The Commission then revised its August 2017 ruling to even further grow Con Ed’s new work list, now including six pages of complex electrical tasks on M.T.A equipment.

Per the updated ruling issued in November, Con Ed now has to inspect, replace, install, or test component parts of many different systems, either itself or with contractors. The company has to, for example, “replace 73 Automatic Transfer Panels at locations identified by the MTA,” “modernize and replace signal cables,” and “replace capacitors.”

This has overturned the status quo and traditional way that Con Ed and the M.T.A. have interacted over the past several years.

The utility racked up $65 million in costs last year, with $137 million more planned in 2018, according to a February filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The November ruling states that Con Ed has, “[…] rights to recover or seek recovery of any prudently incurred costs,” and that “the Commission reserves all of its rights to approve or deny such costs in any future rate case.”

For right now, Con Ed seems to be focusing on making the repairs, and it remains a waiting game to see who will pay off the tab.

In an email, Con Ed spokesman Allan Drury stated that the utility was focused on “assisting the MTA’s program to improve subway service in any way we can.”

The M.T.A. did not respond to a request for comment before publication time.


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