Some Lessons of Sandy Part 2

Now that the storm has passed, it is time for heads to roll. At least that is the message that is being sent by some elected officials and by those who have been without power for so long.

But what heads should roll and why? The power companies for not fixing everything right away? Local land use officials who allowed people to build in dangerous areas? Builders? Realtors? The people who bought in those dangerous areas?

It seems that there is plenty of blame to go around. However, I think that the old line from Pogo says it best; I have met the enemy and he is us.

Let’s start with the power companies. The companies clamored for deregulation. They got what they asked for and promptly cut staff to increase profits. Well, we did want lower power rates didn’t we?

I know that many readers will say that rates are still going up, but the counter is, what would they have gone up if we did not have deregulation? Does that make deregulation good?

That depends on your point of view. When utilities were fully regulated, the stress was on safe, adequate and proper service. Extra materials, staff and diligent maintenance were all paid for by the ratepayer (you and me). That seems to make sense; the user pays. Oh but wait, this same group complained every time costs went up.

Today, we are hearing discussions about burying lines to avoid problems. I think that this is a good idea. But who is going to pay for this? I hear local officials say “they” should pay for such improvements. Who is they? We are.

Then I hear that the federal government should pay. We are the government. (Funny that this is probably the same group of people who say we don’t need government).

The fact is that to pay for underground lines, rates would need to go up. We, the ratepayer, will have to pay for this.

Of course, not all lines can go underground. Look at what happened in NYC.

It seems that the correct answer lies somewhere in the middle. Bury the main lines that are most vulnerable and are located in areas where burying lines is feasible, raise the electric rates to pay for this and be better prepared for the next storm.

But wait, burying lines will require trees to be cut down, lawns to be dug up and damage to our front yards. What an uproar that will cause.

Underground Power Lines
You see, this is not a simple process. We definitely need to look at improving our infrastructure (we have been neglecting infrastructure improvements for years because no one wants to pay for them), but we need to do so in a planned and orderly fashion.

Next week, the other causes of Sandy’s damage.

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