When power's out, it's political

Uniondale, NY Wednesday Aug. 15, 2012 - Newsday/

Uniondale, NY Wednesday Aug. 15, 2012 - Newsday/ J. Conrad Williams Jr.: LIPA Board of Trustees schedule a summer meeting Wednesday Aug.15, the first since officials in the Cuomo Administration hinted at drastic reform for a agency they described as bloated. (Credit: Newsday J. Conrad Williams, Jr.)

A friend who reported news from Iraq amid the turmoil there in 2006 told of how ordinary Baghdad residents showed anger at occupying Americans only at certain moments -- mostly, when the electricity failed. Many just wouldn't believe the United States, with all its resources, couldn't restore it immediately.

Blackouts are political, even amid war, turning people powerless in more ways than one.

In New Jersey last week, the local news media reports sounded a lot like those out of Long Island, Queens, and Westchester in Sandy's wake. Garden Staters who lost power for days vented at local meetings about unreliable information from the utility companies -- among them, PSE&G, New Jersey's biggest, which in 2014 is due to take over managing Long Island's electric grid from the current Long Island Power Authority contractor, National Grid.

But by Friday, the outage story for most people began moving to a cooler, less desperate phase as lights and gasoline pumps worked and appliances hummed. The Associated Press reported that based on U.S. Energy Department data, the public generally waited about as long for power restoration after Sandy as it did here and elsewhere after other major storms.

And over the first week, other data -- still to be refined as reviews are carried out in weeks ahead -- showed Con Edison in Westchester with more outages, proportionally, than LIPA.

One Long Islander involved in LIPA's operation even said, though on condition of anonymity: "In context, when you look at the magnitude of the devastation, and the time it took to restore, I don't think Grid did such a terrible job" except in public communication, which was supposed to improve after Irene but apparently did not. "Also," the source said, "I don't think anyone contemplated a storm surge like we had."

INQUIRIES TO COME: Legislative inquiries into Sandy's widespread impact might be expected from three particularly active state Assembly committees: environmental conservation, chaired by Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst); energy, chaired by Kevin Cahill (D-Kingston); and corporations, authorities and commissions, chaired by James Brennan (D-Brooklyn).

SENATE SUSPENSE: Senate Republicans sounded optimistic Friday of winning a majority by prevailing in the make-or-break new 46th District upstate, where Assemb. George Amedore (R-Rotterdam) pulled slightly ahead of Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk in the vote count.