Suffolk official to lead Moreland panel eyeing utilities

From left to right: Lt Governor Robert Duffy,

From left to right: Lt Governor Robert Duffy, Ed Mangano, Nassau County Executive, and Regina Calcaterra, Chief Deputy, County Executive Suffolk County attend a press conference to update residents about superstorm Sandy recovery. (Nov. 4, 2012) (Credit: Charles Eckert)

A top Suffolk County official will lead a special panel investigating the performance of utility companies during superstorm Sandy and a possible overhaul of the state's energy grid.

Regina Calcaterra, chief deputy to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, was appointed executive director of the Moreland Commission, which was convened by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, commission officials announced Tuesday.

Calcaterra had been overseeing Suffolk's storm response and recovery efforts. She will take a temporary leave from that position to serve with the commission, according to a news release. Bellone, in a statement, said she "provided essential public service in the days during and after superstorm Sandy. She is an outstanding selection as executive director of the Moreland Commission because she has experienced just how devastating the storm was in Suffolk and dealt directly with the recovery issues."

"Millions of utilities' customers in New York deserve answers and a clear road map to avoiding the same failures as were exposed by Hurricane Irene and superstorm Sandy," Calcaterra said in an email. "This investigation will be thorough, fair and completed with a sense of urgency."

Cuomo's panel is one of two investigations into utilities' performance. State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman recently issued subpoenas to the Long Island Power Authority and Con Edison to probe storm preparations and response. Unlike Schneiderman's probe, Cuomo's Moreland Commission doesn't have the power to prosecute or penalize.

Cuomo has harshly denounced utilities' performance -- especially LIPA's -- after the storm but has faced criticism, too, for failing to fill LIPA board vacancies and name a new executive director during his nearly two years in office.

Calcaterra's appointment was made by the commission after its first organizational meeting, a gathering that was not announced to the public beforehand. The panel said it would hold meetings throughout the affected region but would announce dates and locations later.

"Our task is to investigate and determine what went wrong, to provide recommendations that will strengthen the state's ability to protect the public, both through regulation and enforcement, and, where necessary, to hold corporations or individuals accountable," said former state Attorney General Robert Abrams, commission co-chair.

The panel said it has formed two subcommittees: Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice will lead one that is charged with investigating utilities' preparation and response to the storm; Peter Bradford, former head of the state Public Service Commission, will lead a "review of utilities and regulatory structures."

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