LIPA ratepayer bill of rights proposed

A sign to LIPA in Massapequa's Biltmore Shores A sign to LIPA in Massapequa's Biltmore Shores neighborhood. (Nov. 10, 2012) Photo Credit: Emily Ngo

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A Long Island assemblyman said Monday he will introduce legislation establishing a bill of rights for LIPA ratepayers, and it's none too soon for Elena Santamaria of Levittown.

Santamaria, who said she spent two weeks without power after superstorm Sandy hit Oct. 29, lost power again Monday afternoon.

"They are working on it, but they don't know when it's going to be back," she said LIPA told her.

Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove) said his proposed LIPA legislation would establish a list of basic rights for ratepayers, who pay among the highest electric bills in the country.

More than 1 million of LIPA's 1.12 million customers lost power during Sandy and a nor'easter. On Monday about 734 had no power. The number excludes about 28,000 customers in South Shore flood zones that LIPA has deemed unable to safely receive power.

LIPA continues to work on the Sandy-ravaged system, and sometimes outages occur well after a storm as it works to return the system to normal operating mode and make permanent temporary fixes during the storm.

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Among the measures in Lavine's proposed bill of rights: the establishment of an emergency management plan during storms, and measures to ensure the proper maintenance of wires and poles; a regional timetable for power restoration based on town, village or school district; an adequately staffed customer service department to field calls during a storm; and a requirement that LIPA investigate each customer complaint of tree interference with electrical wires.

As of yet there is no State Senate counterpart.

"A LIPA Customer Bill of Rights, written into state law, will help to protect us from another devastating failure," Lavine said, referring to communication and other failures attributed to LIPA in the wake of Sandy.

The bill also would require LIPA to tell customers how many workers were in each area, and that it provide power to gas stations and other refueling stations to "prevent chaos at the pump and hourslong waits for gasoline" during a major outage.

LIPA spokesman Mark Gross didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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