Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Letter from Sprain Road Con Ed Victim - Must Read!

From the email:

I had a meeting with John Banks, VP of Governmental Relations from Con Ed and we discussed this issue and others. I walked them through my home and communicated that the loss of habitat, noise level from the parkway and the sight line were my biggest concerns. As well as, new erosion issues on the Catskill Aqueduct. Each spring as the ground warms and the ice melts a huge volume of water moves through our property and will no doubt cause flooding on the Sprain Parkway behind my home.

I gave Mr. Banks a copy of a survey of our property and highlighted areas that would need to be substantially planted to create a barrier to the ROW and the Sprain Parkway. We also discussed replanting Sprain Road so that the character of our neighborhood can be restored to a beautiful country road. Paul Feiner has started a donation and community replanting initiative and I think Con Ed can easily donate a generous number of trees to show good faith.

I told him that, I would prefer if they recreated the natural sound and wind barrier by a massive replanting initiative along the the ROW, rather than a concrete wall. Perhaps 4 or five rows of staggered 10-12 ft evergreens planted 8 ft apart would do the job and replace some of the habitat. I suggested Blue Spruce and cypress trees as options because it is on their list of trees they are willing to plant.

He asked about the meeting on Saturday. I and I said that Senator Cousins stated that the lack of meaningful communications between Con Ed and the PSC, local governments and individual homeowners was the root of the problem.

I suggested that a Town Hall meeting should have been organized prior to beginning the work in which Con Ed stated that under current federal mandate they were required to aggressively maintain this ROW. Had they stated that they understood the impact not only on the natural habitat but also on homeowners and a plan was implemented to both plant prior to the clearing and afterward to minimize the impact, this community would not have had their life quality devastated. Whether Con Ed is required to do this by by law or not.

I also told him that the Senator sees a need for regulation. Con Eds recent project is an example of what happens when a corporation is left to essentially govern itself. Within the federal mandate for maintaining the ROW, there must be special attention paid to heavily populated residential neighborhoods.

I told him that my understanding from reading the U.S.-Canada Power System Outage Task Force: Final Report on Implementation of Recommendations is that there were a number of causes for the 2003 blackout. While it was initially triggered in Ohio by tree limbs coming into contact with Conductors, it was also stated that these trees were in direct contact with power lines and had not been adequately managed. High temperatures and windless conditions combined with increased amperage draw stressed the supply lines causing additional sagging, thus making direct contact with the poorly maintained trees. Also in the report it states that “Inadequate reactive supply was a factor in most of the events.” and “the assumed contribution of dynamic reactive output of system generators was greater than the generators actually produced, resulting in more significant voltage problems.” In other words the backup generators were not adequate to handle the amperage load or voltage needed. A lack of coordination of System Protection Programs(relays tripping), inadequate communication between Utilities, and lack of "training of operating personnel in dealing with severe system disturbances" were also noted in the report as causes for the blackout.

I told him that although tree contact was the initial cause of the black out in Ohio, the situation snow balled because the entire system was tenuous at best. The report stated that there were a greater number of instances of other system failures than there were instances of tree contact. I told him that I living what Con Ed has done about the trees, and that now I would like to know whether adequate back up generators have been installed? Has a computerized safety system been created and installed so that the utlities are aware when relays are popping? Is there an emergency protocol in place so that States can now communicate and cooperate in a coordinated effort in such an emergency? And finally, have the administrative employees and utility technicians been properly trained to deal with such a large scale blackout?

He agree to pass my informantion on and would contact me again with a proposal.

I told him I would expect to have an agreement by the end of March, so I could begin to dig the holes and prepare the soil.

That's the way to keep the pressure on! The idea of pre- and post-meetings by Con Ed with the community and the municipality to clearly review intended actions (and as follow-up, to survey actual results) is key to ensuring this sort of man-made environmental disaster is not inflicted on our communities again. But part of the review process needs to include a robust means for the community (both private and public stakeholders) to ensure that no work is undertaken without a fully-vetted EAR (environmental assessment) and general agreement as to the impacts and restitutions. It's called PUBLIC OVERSIGHT - and we urgently need this now!

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