* Nearly 1 mln in N.J., 650,000 in N.Y. still without power
* Attention shifts to labor-intensive outages
* Polling places re-energized in most states
By Cezary Podkul
NEW YORK, Nov 4 About 1.9 million homes and
businesses remained in the dark on Sunday as the pressure
mounted on power providers to restore electricity to areas hit
hardest by Hurricane Sandy nearly a week ago.
In New York, utilities came under increasing pressure to
restore heat and light to some 650,000 customers. More than half
of those were served by the Long Island Power Authority, which
was singled out for criticism by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
In New Jersey, about a quarter of the state remained without
After a peak of 8.5 million outages across 21 states
affected by the massive storm, the rate of restoring power each
day has eased as line crews must work on increasingly difficult
and isolated outages.
After last year's Tropical Storm Irene, most power was back
within five days.
By Sunday afternoon, 640,000 customers had been switched
back on in the last 24 hours, down from about 1 million who had
power restored a day earlier.
LIPA, which said Sunday it still had 370,000 of its 1.1
million customers without power, has come in for some of the
toughest criticism over its efforts, particularly with a new
cold front now menacing the region.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's website put the figure
closer to 337,000, which was the most of any utility serving the
state. Con Edison, which serves about 3.3 million customers in
New York state, was second at about 200,000 customer outages.
Speaking at a press conference Sunday morning, Cuomo again
criticized LIPA's restoration efforts and vowed to hold power
companies "100 percent" accountable for their performance during
Earlier this week, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg had
joined in the criticism, saying LIPA "has not acted aggressively
enough" to restore power to customers. The utility's customers
in the city reside in Queens.
Mark Gross, a spokesperson for Long Island Power Authority,
was unavailable for comment.
THE LABOR-INTENSIVE STUFF
Nearly a week after Sandy's landfall, industry experts
warned that the overall pace of restoration might slow as
utilities move to repair lines and poles, which affect smaller
numbers of customers.
"That's the real labor-intensive stuff that it's just
street-to-street, house-to-house, neighborhood-by-neighborhood,"
said Brian L. Wolff, senior vice president of external affairs
at Edison Electric Institute, an industry group.
He added that some 150,000 to 200,000 customers "have such a
level of physical destruction that they won't be able to restore
electricity for quite some time."
In New Jersey, where many coastal towns experienced severe
devastation, about 25 percent of utility customers were still
without power Sunday, according to the Department of Energy.
Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) and Jersey
Central Power & Light (JCP&L) - two major providers -
each had about half a million customers without power.
PSE&G, which provides power to about 2.2 million customers
across a wide swath of central New Jersey, said 493,000 were
still without power. But critical infrastructure serviced by the
utility had its power restored, a senior executive told
reporters on a conference call Sunday.
About 78 percent of gasoline stations had power restored, as
well as 80 percent of schools, PSE&G President and Chief
Operating Officer Ralph A. LaRossa said.
Seven power substations, including six in Hudson County,
were still being restored and the utility was busy coordinating
power restoration efforts with local authorities for polling
places in time for Election Day.
"We'll be in pretty good shape by Tuesday," LaRossa said.
JCP&L, which provides power to 1.1 million customers in 13
New Jersey counties, had 473,000 customers without power as of
Sunday afternoon. That's the vast majority of the 551,000
customers JCP&L's parent company, energy company FirstEnergy
, reported across all its affected service areas.
In service areas outside of New Jersey, which include
Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio,
FirstEnergy expected to have service restored to the majority of
polling places ahead of election day, Jennifer Young, a
spokesperson for FirstEnergy, said in an email.
In Connecticut, where utility regulators harshly criticized
Connecticut Light and Power for its restoration
efforts after a freak snow in October 2011, the company was
making progress Sunday restoring its remaining customers to
power. About 45,000 of Connecticut Light and Power's 1.24
million customers remained without power as of late Sunday
afternoon, according to a spokesperson.
In Pennsylvania, power provider PPL Corporation was
also zeroing in on its remaining outages. All polling places and
schools in the utility's 29-county service zone had been
restored, spokesperson Michael Wood said. The company had less
than 20,000 customer outages as of late Sunday, he said
"Nearly all of those customers will be repaired today," Wood