Con Edison reaches a record settlement with the state over the deadly gas explosion in East Harlem three years ago. The money is expected to finance safety improvements designed to prevent a similar disaster. But advocates say more needs to be done. NY1's Michael Herzenberg reports.
The gas explosion in East Harlem on March 12, 2014 took down two buildings and killed eight people. More than 50 others were injured.
Investigators found that two of Con Edison's gas pipes were not welded together properly, and that the utility did not adequately certify its workers and contractors.
"It's like they need to train these people better, so that they can work better on these sites so things like this won't happen," said one woman in the area.
People in the neighborhood still remember the chaos, but Con Edison's $153.3 million settlement with the state is slated to pay for better training for employees and more education for the public.
The money also is expected to help establish better emergency response procedures and improve the inspection of gas pipes in danger of leaking.
"This is a great thing," said Jonathan Bowles of the Center for an Urban Future. "It's like it's a positive step towards creating a more modern gas infrastructure."
The center applauds the settlement, but points out that more needs to be done, and the cost will be hundreds of millions of dollars.
Roughly half of the 6,400 miles of gas main lines in the city belonging to Con Ed and National Grid were installed before 1960.
"We're going to be in for more accidents in New York City if we don't make sure that some of that vital infrastructure gets modernized and fixed, and right now it is happening, but we'd like to see it happening at a faster pace," Bowles said.
Con Ed says that before the East Harlem blast, it replaced about 60 miles of gas lines per year, but now it's replacing upwards of 100 miles annually.
It also has so-called gas-smeller trucks inspecting its service area monthly instead of annually.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo says Con Edison shareholders will pay for settlement, not customers.
The settlement will not have any effect on lawsuits filed by victims of the East Harlem Explosion against Con Ed.