2nd public meeting on LIPA draws big crowds

A presentation on the planned restructuring of the utility drew a lively, mixed response in Wheatley Heights, where state lawmakers held the second public meeting on the proposal. Videojournalist: Chris Ware (June 6, 2013)

Close to 300 people packed the second of two public meetings Thursday night on the future of LIPA as Suffolk residents offered a long list of proposed improvements to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's plan to have PSEG take over the utility.

Even some who supported the bill offered a list of tweaks, while others said it lacks union job protections, commitments to green energy and adequate oversight.

LIPA oversight committee chairman Sheldon Sackstein implored the administration to slow down the process.


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Also Thursday, the Cuomo administration released the expanded term sheet for the PSEG contract. Among the new terms: PSEG's fixed annual pay will increase to $58 million a year, from $36.3 million, beginning in 2016, a $21.7 million increase. PSEG also would operate the system under a 12-year contract, compared with the original 10 years.

According to the state comptroller's website, the PSEG contract with the Long Island Power Authority is valued at $3.87 billion. With the addition of $21.7 million a year over 10 years, or $220 million, the total contract value would exceed $4.09 billion. Officials in Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's administration said that with an anticipated $50 million to $60 million in annual savings on the contract beginning in 2016, the savings could total $500 million to $600 million over that period, potentially reducing the total contract value.

In addition, a three-year planned rate freeze would start this year and extend to 2015.

A summary provided by the Cuomo administration notes that PSEG would be entitled to up to $25 million in additional incentive compensation beginning in 2016, and that the amount would be paid from the "efficiency savings" PSEG would realize.

At last night's public meeting in Wheatley Heights, Suffolk Leg. Wayne Horsley (D-Babylon) said he supported the governor's plan to overhaul LIPA, but drew applause from the large number of attendees from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1049 when he requested that call centers be staffed with Long Islanders who "can pronounce Massapequa and Hauppauge." IBEW represents 2,600 unionized National Grid workers. A statement read for Babylon Supervisor Richard Schaffer called the proposal "ambitious and complex but the right plan for Long Island."

A woman who said she was a PSEG customer criticized the utility for a planned investment to harden the system that would come from ratepayers, who already have been hard hit, she said, in the storm's aftermath.

Suffolk Legis. John M. Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset) criticized handing the expanded contract to PSEG without competitive bidding and what he called the bill's lack of oversight.

A Long Island representative for AARP requested that the bill provide for a strong consumer advocate for Long Island ratepayers, while former Suffolk County Executive Patrick Halpin said while he supported the bill, he recommended the state Public Service Commission add at least two more commissioners to monitor LIPA.

Steve Rossetti of the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency asked that the bill include a mandate to build new power plants on brown fields -- echoing the call by many that the governor support overhauling National Grid's antiquated power plants. LIPA oversight committee chairman Sheldon Sackstein implored the administration to slow the process.

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Do you support Gov. Cuomo's plan to give near total control of the Long Island electric grid to PSEG?

Yes, but I believe he needs to include more oversight by the Public Service Commission Yes, he's right on the money No, the plan needs more work

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