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CEO says Con Ed will keep seeking rate increases


WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) — Consolidated Edison's electric system is "very reliable," and its troubles during the recovery from Superstorm Sandy won't keep it from pursuing another rate increase, the company's chairman said Thursday.

"We've been investing in our system and part of the reason in general, excluding such a major storm as this, is the system is very reliable," said chairman and CEO Kevin Burke. "We're going to continue to make those investments and we're going to continue to, as appropriate, apply for increases."

Burke spoke at the opening of a storm recovery center in White Plains as tens of thousands remained without power 10 days past the storm's arrival.

"I'm very sorry that so many people are suffering because their lights are out," he said. "I'm very sorry for what happened.

"We made a number of significant improvements after Hurricane Irene," Burke said. But Sandy, he said, "came in so much greater than we were planning for."

The worst previous storm outage in Con Ed's history affected about 200,000 customers, he said, while 975,000 customers have lost power since Sandy.

He said his Manhattan home did not lose power.

Burke acknowledged that many customers were frustrated because they couldn't get accurate information about their situation. He said that by Thursday, the company was able to tell people what day their power would be restored.

"Communication is clearly an area we need to continue to improve in," Burke said.

He would not assign a grade to Con Ed's performance, and he would not respond directly to criticism from Gov. Andrew Cuomo that the utilities involved were unprepared and badly managed.

Asked what mistakes had occurred, Burke said, "We did not have a very good estimate of how big the storm surge was going to be."

He said the company would do better next time.

"We'll learn a lot from this event," he said.