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Con Ed mulls $17M blackout payback

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Under the deal, the utility would also pay for an estimated $40 million in repairs caused by the outage rather than including the costs in rate payers' bills, the source said.Con Ed and the state's Public Service Commission, which regulates the utility, would not comment.The PSC voted unanimously in April 2007 to investigate the utility's performance during the blackout, which left an estimated 174,000 residents without power during a 10-day period in July 2006 as well as causing western Queens businesses to lose millions in revenue and product. Con Ed had asked the PSC to consider a possible settlement last year.But Con Ed has been discussing a preliminary offer with the PSC that would force the utility to pay $17 million in compensation to residents and businesses affected by the outage, a source said. Each customer would be reimbursed an estimated $100 and Con Ed would make $40 million in repairs, the source said.A PSC spokesman said no settlement had been reached.But western Queens elected officials, residents and business owners said the rumored reimbursement was not nearly enough."It's pathetic and typical," said state Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), one of several Astoria elected officials who has repeatedly lambasted the utility for its response to the blackout. "A $100 reimbursement is a slap in the face for people who went through nearly two weeks with no electricity and for businesses that lost tens of thousands of dollars."City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) slammed Con Ed's rumored offer and said that several neighborhood businesses were forced to close their doors permanently after the outage."Nothing they do shocks us anymore unless, of course, we step on a grate," he said.George Stelios, owner of Teddy's Florist on 31st Street in Astoria, said his business lost power for nearly one week during the outage. He said the reimbursement would not go very far for his flower shop."This is one big joke," he said. "They'll give us back $100 one week and raise the rates the next week. Con Ed is a monopoly. They have us in a stranglehold and there is nothing we can do about it."Con Ed raised its rates 4.7 percent on April 1 following the PSC's approving part of the utility's proposed rate hike last month. The utility had proposed increasing bills by as much as 36 percent, making it the largest rate hike in the company's history. But the PSC approved a more modest $425 million increase that would increase bills by 4.7 percent for one year.Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

Updated 6:58 pm, October 10, 2011
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