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Interview with Governor George Pataki of New York

Aired August 15, 2003 - 07:17   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: I understand right now the governor of the state of New York, George Pataki, is with us now. Is he with us live or is this a press conference? If you can give me the information, I'm not quite positive just yet.
Here is -- the governor is with us right now.

Governor, thanks for your time and good morning.

GOV. GEORGE PATAKI, NEW YORK: Good morning, Bill.

HEMMER: I'm not quite sure of your location, but let's start from that point. Are you in the city?

PATAKI: No, I'm still up at our command center in Albany. Everybody has been working here throughout the night. Most of the state has had its power restored with the exception of Long Island and the city. And we're still working hard to try to bring back New York City as quickly as possible.

HEMMER: OK, Governor, it was said in the early hours of this crisis yesterday that Manhattan would come on slowly, bit by bit, as you worked your way through the state. Is that still the process now?

PATAKI: Yes, it is. Most of the Bronx is back, all of Staten Island is back, parts of Queens and Brooklyn, and small parts of Manhattan, but it is a slow process. We have to make sure that the grid is balanced, so that you have the voltage demand and the supply equal so that you don't do any damage to the system. But the system is being restored. Most of the state is back on, and New York City still remains the area where we have the greatest needs to get the system up and running again.

HEMMER: Governor, you say you have to keep the balance. Has that worked so far?

PATAKI: Yes, it has. You know, we're obviously going to ask tough questions about why there was such a systemic failure, but the process of repowering the system and repowering the plants has gone according to the plan. We'd like to see it go quicker. We're pushing ConEd to do that, but they are doing everything in their power to make sure they get their plants up as quickly as possible.

And one of the amazing things is, at this point, I have no reports of any fatalities or serious injuries, notwithstanding the fact that the overwhelming majority of 19 million people were without power for a significant time. So, we are proud of New Yorkers. They have again come through with the courage and the calmness in a crisis that we've come to expect.

And I just want New Yorkers to again show today, if they don't have power, to continue to help each other out, and if you do have power, to conserve energy. It will help us to restore power to the areas that don't have it that much quicker.

HEMMER: Governor, are you saying that there are no reported heat-related deaths at this point in the state of New York, even in the city?

PATAKI: None that we have here at the command center in Albany. Now, I can't say that we won't get such reports. But I'll just give you one example. There were almost 600 commuter trains and subways that were stranded when the power went out yesterday afternoon. Every single person, hundreds of thousands were evacuated. Not one serious injury; certainly no fatalities.

So, the heat wave is obviously going to have an impact on people's health, particularly when they don't have access to power or air-conditioning. But New Yorkers have been helping each other out, working together, and I'm confident as we continue that throughout the day that we're going to get through this.

HEMMER: You had a number of statements last night. I heard you live on local radio several times. You say, as many officials in this city say, that since 1977 there were guarantees and assurances that this would not happen to the people of your state again, and it has. You say there are tough questions that need to be asked. What are the questions you want answered immediately?

PATAKI: Well, first of all, where did this happen? And how did it happen? And given the safeguards that were supposed to have been put in place after the last systemic failures back in the '60s and '70s, why did the system that was supposed to have the security and the safeguards fail, not just in New York but in most of the Northeast, throughout Ontario and much of the Midwest?

We are demanding these answers. We have spoken with the independent systems operator for New York. They believe that the failure occurred initially west of Ontario, somewhere in the middle west, but then it cascaded through Ontario into New York and through much of the Northeast. That should not happen.

And whether it's the North American Electric Reliability Council, FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, we have to have answers to this. It's 2003. We are an energy-dependent society, particularly in urban areas like New York City. And we just have to make sure that whatever safeguards are taken to make sure that the system doesn't have this type of failure again, these steps have to be taken and these questions have to be answered.

HEMMER: Governor, back up just a little bit. Why is it, now 15 hours after this crisis began, that you can't say for certain and pinpoint the source of this problem?

PATAKI: Well, we do know that earlier reports, such as that it was the Niagara power plant, are completely inaccurate. The Niagara power plant, in fact, worked throughout this crisis generating a significant part of the energy that was available in New York State. The independent systems operator doesn't believe it was anything that occurred in New York State. But it's up to the national and international authorities, like the Electric Reliability Council that involves both Canada and the U.S., to answer these questions and to take the steps to make sure it doesn't happen again.

HEMMER: On a local level here in Manhattan, Broadway was dark last night, restaurants, some say this evening cost them each about $50,000 per restaurant, depending on the level of service they provide. Have you been able to even analyze or pick up how big the economic impact may be on this city and your state?

PATAKI: I'm sorry. I haven't been able to hear the question. I'm having trouble with the feedback here. But we still have millions of New Yorkers without power, so our focus right now is to make sure that we get the power back, public health, public safety, concern for each other, and to make sure that happens. If you get power back, conserve energy. That's the mantra of today.

HEMMER: Let me try it again, Governor.

PATAKI: I don't have an IFB.

HEMMER: The economic impact, have you been able to add it up? OK, our apologies. Governor George Pataki upstate in Albany. He mentioned IFB -- that's what we refer to in layman's terms in television as the earpiece that we stick in our ear in order to hear each other and listen to each other, not only producers, but reporters and anchors throughout the television world.

But we want to thank the governor. If we can get him back a bit later, that would be wonderful. But Governor Pataki with a lot of questions. Certainly he's had a long night, just like so many other people have here in New York.


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