The Business Council opposes this legislation granting the Public Service Commission the authority to require energy and telephone companies with more than 1 million subscribers to conduct a safety and reliability inspection study of all of their utility poles.
This bill would require affected companies to conduct a safety and reliability study of all utility poles used for electric and telecommunications service, report the total number of poles per county, and tally and report the total number of poles declared unsafe based on the level of damage to the pole. The penalties for failure to replace damaged poles would be $150 per month per pole.
We oppose this bill because this initiative only targets certain companies unfairly. In addition, the measure only applies to 50% of the state geographically due to the carve-outs provided under the bill.
During these difficult economic times, imposing such a mandate on any company is simply the wrong thing to do. Even in routine instances, costs to transfer facilities from one pole to another, and then to remove and dispose of the original pole is estimated at approximately $2,000 per pole. These added costs will not grow jobs or avoid layoffs. Unfortunately, it will divert much-needed capital that would be better spent to expand broadband services in our upstate communities.
The bill also fails to recognize the role local governments in this process. Prior to any pole being placed, the local government issues a work permit and approves the locations of new poles. The local government issuing the permit should be encouraged to have discussions about the installation and removal of the utility poles with the electric utility when it applies for the work permits.
Further, we feel this proposal is unnecessary because the Public Service Commission is already in the process of implementing a system that applies to all service providers. It would create a database for utility pole installations and establish a communications system among all companies that use the poles to provide electric and telecommunication services throughout New York.
We believe that communication is the key to reducing the numbers of unused and damaged utility poles. Electric utilities must advise one another of the intended removal and placement of a new pole. This would avoid new poles from being placed at locations where the cost to move facilities from one pole to another and the work needed to accomplish that task is considerable.
For these reasons, we respectfully urge the defeat of A.6181-A /S.1777-A.