LIPA chief Kevin Law's unexpected decision to depart the authority as it embarks on critical decisions about its future leaves LIPA management and trustees with the daunting job of finding a replacement while following through on Law's vision.
Law Wednesday accepted the job of president of the Long Island Association business group after three years at LIPA's helm. He'll remain at LIPA until Sept. 1 to smooth the transition.
In coming weeks and months, the Long Island Power Authority is expected to issue requests for bids on contracts to manage the entire regional electric grid, and to deliver 500 to 1,000 megawatts of new power - about one-fifth of the current load. This summer, it plans to ask for bids on a proposed offshore wind farm. Decisions on all three could come within a year.
Law initiated the moves just this year as LIPA contracts for energy and electrical grid management with National Grid expire in 2013. Further complicating matters: National Grid is widely expected to put its 17 Long Island power plants on the selling block this year.
LIPA trustees, energy experts and officials say the authority must act quickly to find an experienced replacement for Law, though he will remain in his post through most of the summer.
Law's replacement must be confirmed by the State Senate under new public authority reform laws.
A handful of possible successors are being considered. Law has asked Gov. David A. Paterson to name him to LIPA's board to help guide it once he leaves.
"A lot of big decisions have been left unresolved, especially from an environmental standpoint," said LIPA trustee Neal Lewis, who heads the Sustainability Institute of Molloy College. "It's a little disconcerting in terms of where we are at and then suddenly having to find a new captain in the middle of the game."
Added trustee David Calone, "I think it's very important we have a quick transition. It's a critical time for LIPA."
Wednesday, Law said he asked for a Sept. 1 start date specifically to smooth the transition, but added, "There's always going to be big things going on at LIPA."
He said he had told former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who appointed him in 2007, that he'd re-evaluate his LIPA role this year. "I committed to staying until the fall of 2010," he said. "I never came to LIPA thinking I'd be here 10 years."
James Larocca, a commissioner of the New York State Public Service Commission who served as both LIPA chairman and LIA president, said the LIA was "very lucky to get Kevin," particularly as that group has "gotten smaller and wielded less influence." Law is suited to change that, Larocca said.
Dowling College business school dean Matthew Cordaro said LIPA should step back before appointing a new chief executive.
"LIPA's $7 billion debt and its financial structure make this a huge decision and a problem," he said. "It would be my hope they don't rush into anything because Kevin is leaving."
Law said he "accomplished a lot at LIPA" and brushed off criticism about his departure.
"I made the decision this move was best for me and my family," he said. "No one should criticize a man when he puts his family first."