Con Edison should join Metro-North in reimbursing those who lost money or who were disrupted by the Sept. 25 power failure on the New Haven Line to Grand Central Terminal, according to U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who held a hearing Monday at City Hall.
The hearing included U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, U.S. Reps. Jim Himes, D-4, and Elizabeth Esty, D-5, and the heads of Con Ed, Amtrak, Metro-North, the Connecticut Department of Transportation, American Society of Civil Engineers, Connecticut Commuter Council and the Business Council of Fairfield County.
Craig Ivey, president of Con Ed, said the utility was asked to take a feeder cable out of service so Metro-North could do work on the Mount Vernon substation. When the second feeder failed, throwing the New Haven Line into disarray, he said Metro-North should be responsible for reimbursements.
The commuter railroad has said it will reimburse customers affected by the power failure.
"We clearly recognize the hardships endured by Metro-North commuter and regret ... the disruption," Ivey said. However, "This is Metro-North's substation and not Con Ed's substation.
Con Ed has said the first feeder, which is encased in oil, was taken out of service by freezing the oil, but gas infiltrated the ground around the cable and froze the second feeder. "We have no records of a condition of this nature happening at any other time," Ivey said.
Blumenthal also pressed Ivey on whether the feeder's age — at 36 years old it's six years past its expected lifespan — contributed to the failure. Ivey said it was "thermal stresses," not the cable's age, that was reason for the failure.
Blumenthal asked Ivey, "Can you commit to us today that Con Ed will reimburse the refunds to Metro-North?"
"We don't believe our customers should bear the risk when one of our customers decides to ... take a piece of equipment out of service," Ivey responded.
Later, Blumenthal said he was not persuaded. "Con Ed ought to be reimbursing Metro-North," he said after the hearing. "There are also others that suffered economic damage" because of the storm, such as businesses, he said.
Blumenthal also contended Con Ed should have had a backup plan once its second feeder was taken out of service. "There should always be a backup source of power such as (Connecticut Light & Power) is doing in Connecticut but at the very least there should be contingency planning," the senator said, adding Metro-North should have verified Con Ed's plans as well.
"There was no plan for the outage or interruption of service," he said.
Once the New Haven Line went out between Stamford and Grand Central, Metro-North moved in diesel engines from its other lines to bring back partial service and brought in three transformers to create a small substation, but full service was not restored for the New Haven Line's 130,000 daily customers until Oct. 7.
DOT Commissioner James Redeker said new substations are being built in the Cos Cob section of Greenwich and in New Haven. "These projects are scheduled to be completed by the end of the calendar year," he said. He said they would complete a system that will provide the needed backup capability.
Joseph Boardman, Amtrak's CEO, said the railroad needs $782 million a year for 15 years to put its national infrastructure in a state of good repair.
Joseph McGee of the Fairfield business council said the New Haven Line is at 70 percent capacity and is expected to reach 100 percent in 20 to 25 years. "In a very short period of time we'll have a congested railway," McGee said.
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