July 25, 2006 - E-Newsletter Vol III: Ed IX
In my latest report to you from Congress, I want to share with you some hot topics from Washington and some of the issues on which I've been working hard:
In this E-Newsletter:
- Outrage over Con Ed Power Outage
- Veto of Stem Cell Bill Was a Setback
- Questions about bank records surveillance program deserve answers
- "Global War on Terror" resolution was unproductive
- Congress may undo key identity theft protection
- President apparently supports birth control, will his administration stop restricting access?
- Keeping the Net Neutral
As temperatures soared into the 90s, on July 17, 2006, large parts of Western Queens lost power. Western Queens has 6 power plants and supplies 60% of the power to New York City. Residents of this area bear the brunt of the health impacts of living near so many power plants, and now they are dealing with food spoilage, excessive heat and, in many cases, no hot water due to the blackout. When the first reports of power outages began coming in, my office immediately contacted Con Edison. First Con Ed denied there was a problem. Then they suggested that it was minimal - that only 1100 people had lost power. As time passed and the lights stayed off, I wrote to Con Edison Chairman, President and CEO Kevin Burke to demand some answers and better communication with those who are affected.
The more I learn about Con Edison's actions, the more appalled I become. The most recent estimate is that more than 25,000 customers lost power, or about 100,000 individuals. On July 21, 2006, I wrote again to Mr. Burke to express my outrage. I also wrote a letter to House Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis and Ranking Member Henry Waxman, requesting that the federal government investigate how the blackout happened, why it happened, and what must be done to reduce the vulnerability of the power grid in the nation's most prominent terrorist target. Today I joined a letter authored by Senator Clinton calling on FEMA to step in and declare Western Queens a disaster area, so that federal assistance would be available.
As of this writing, there is still no end to this crisis in sight. Con Edison cannot identify with specificity which customers are having problems - they rely on canvassing the neighborhood and customer reports. So, if your lights are still out, call 1-800-75CONED. If you have spoiled food due to lack of refrigeration, you may be able to claim some compensation from Con Edison -- $350 for residential customers, $7,000 for business customers. You can claim compensation by completing the forms found here.