What has been done
The following is a timeline showing the measures taken and missed opportunities on the part of Con Edison and the Public Service Commission in their efforts to address stray voltage.
Con Edison History
- Prior to 2004 Con Edison did not look for stray voltage in any formal way. They did not keep adequate records of detections of energized objects nor did they keep adequate records of reported shocks. Con Edison did not look for system failures, so they did not find them, and thus did not fix them and unfortunately did not learn how to improve public safety.
- The decades of not looking, not finding and not fixing the system failures that create energized objects led directly to the death of Jodie Lane on January 16th, 2004.
- After Jodie's death, Con Edison's regulator, the New York State Public Service Commission, mandated that they manually scan all of their assets, as well as those of New York City's Department of Transportation, each year. These initial scans demonstrated the extent of the problem.
- Con Edison realized that manual scanning was expensive, not easily scalable and not particularly effective. They commissioned the Sarnoff Corporation to create a more effective and efficient technology, which resulted in the mobile scanning device in 2006.
- The Jodie S. Lane Public Safety Foundation, because of an agreement with Con Edison, had access to review both the manual and mobile scan data. The Foundation, after analyzing this data, lobbied Con Edison to increase the use of mobile scanning. Even though the Foundation produces a compelling and statistically significant case for how increased mobile scanning reduced pedestrian risk, throughout 2005, 2006 and 2007, Con Edison resisted the full and frequent use of mobile scanning. Mobile scanning only increased from one to four times per year over this three year period.
- Between March 2007 and March 2009, Con Edison changed the stray voltage detection process for traffic lights in order to reduce the reported number of stray voltage detections. This change was made without informing their regulator or the Jodie S. Lane Public Safety Foundation. Even after the Foundation uncovered this change, Con Edison continued to obfuscate the truth. Changing their procedures to create an apparent reduction in stray voltage lowered Con Edison's costs (they did not need to spend money to repair these system failures), clearly choosing profit over customer safety.
- Though the mobile scanning done in New York City has clearly been effective in reducing public risk, including reducing the number of shock events, Con Edison publicly argued that such mobile scanning is not necessary or beneficial upstate, supporting the upstate utility's desire to maintain the ineffectual and dangerous status quo of only one manual scan per year.
- In January 2008, Con Edison published a press release stating that shocks had been reduced by 80%. This was a clear misrepresentation of the facts.
- After years of lobbying by the Jodie S. Lane Public Safety Foundation, Con Edison performed eleven mobile scans in 2008 and twelve in 2009. Between 2004 and 2008, pedestrian and pet shocks declined by approximately 67%.
The Public Service Commission (PSC) History
- Prior to 2004 the PSC did not require good stray voltage recordkeeping nor did they require the New York State utilities to look for stray voltage. The PSC had no data to determine if their utilities were providing power safely.
- After the death of Jodie Lane, the PSC required one manual scan of all Con Edison assets each year.
- In 2005 mobile scanning technology was developed and proven to be far superior to manual scanning. However, the PSC did not certify this technology for several years, ensuring limited use by the New York State utilities the PSC regulates.
- In 2008 the PSC finally certified the SVD2000 mobile scanning truck; however they did not certify the complete mobile scanning process. The PSC did not certify the post truck alarm procedures. By not certifying the process after the truck alarm sounds, all that the rate payer is asssured of is that the truck will alarm, not that the procedures that follow the alarm will identify the actual energized object and its location.
- In 2009, the PSC is made aware of Con Edison’s manipulation of the stray voltage detection process for traffic lights. The PSC did not admonish nor penalize Con Edison and instead argued that no enforcement was justified given the PSC's original order regarding stray voltage. Astonishingly, the PSC did not modify the order to ensure this type of behavior would be penalized in the future.
- After years of lobbying by the Jodie S. Lane Public Safety Foundation, the PSC required Con Edison to perform twelve mobile scans per year starting in 2009.
- The PSC orders the upstate utilities to perform one mobile scan per year starting in 2009, even though the Foundation makes a clear data-backed case that this is not sufficient. The first mobile scan in Upstate NY started in October 2009 and was completed by year end.