Con Edison repairing equipment to end NYC brownout

Thu Jul 5, 2012 9:29am EDT

* Con Ed reduces voltage in Brooklyn neighborhoods

* Company locked out union workers on Sunday

* Heat wave to bake New York through weekend

By Scott DiSavino

NEW YORK, July 5 (Reuters) - Crew from New York power company Consolidated Edison Inc repaired equipment to end a brownout on Thursday morning in Brooklyn as heavy air conditioning usage strained power lines during a heat wave.

The latest voltage reduction was the first since the company locked out its 8,500-member unionized workers on Sunday after contract talks broke down. The company did not give details on the repairs.

The company said the latest voltage reduction had nothing to do with the lockout, noting it had reduced voltage in parts of Brooklyn and Queens a couple of weeks before the lockout during a heat wave.

The union, however, said the voltage reduction was a sign that Con Edison could not keep the system running without the union workers.

"This is what we have been saying all along, that the company would run into these problems when the weather heats up. They needed to reduce voltage because they could not keep the system up," John Melia, a union spokesman, told Reuters.

"This is an extremely dangerous situation for the people of New York," Melia said, noting that replacement workers were getting hurt every day due to a lack of experience.

The company, however, countered that crews in the field were qualified.

"Many of the managers out in the field came up through the union and did the kind of work needed to maintain the system in the past," Con Edison spokeswoman Sara Banda told Reuters.

High temperatures in New York, the biggest metropolitan area in the United States, were expected in the 90s Fahrenheit (32 Celsius) through the end of the weekend, according to AccuWeather.com.

Con Edison said it reduced voltage by 5 percent Wednesday night as a precaution to protect equipment and maintain service as crews worked to repair the problems.

Customers don't lose power in a voltage reduction, but incandescent lights, hot water heaters and some motors are affected.

The company did not ask customers in the affected Brooklyn neighborhoods to take any special measures, but continued to ask all of the 3.2 million homes and businesses it serves in New York City and Westchester County to continue to conserve energy during the heat wave.

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