Key Cuomo aide on LIPA plan is visiting LI

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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's point man on reforming LIPA will be on Long Island Wednesday for a discussion with business leaders, as an influential senior citizens group called for a thorough review of the governor's privatization plan.

Larry Schwartz, secretary to the governor, will appear before a Long Island Association committee on LIPA along with state-paid consultants from the financial firm Lazard Ltd. to explain the plan for privatization and other options for the utility, LIA president Kevin Law, a former LIPA chief executive, confirmed.

Matt Wing, a spokesman for Cuomo, stressed privatization isn't the only option being explored. "The point of this trip is to listen," he said. " . . . The only option we're not considering is maintaining the failed status quo."

Schwartz last week met with members of the state Senate and the Assembly, some of whom have questioned privatization and are leaning in favor of making LIPA a fully public utility. Recently, a Long Island delegation of Assembly members endorsed Matthew Cordaro, chairman of the Suffolk Legislature's LIPA Oversight committee and a strong backer of the fully public option, as a LIPA trustee. The request awaits the approval of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Meanwhile, the American Association for Retired Persons and the Public Utility Law Project, in a report released Tuesday, called for the creation of a public advocate for New York utility customers, and a comprehensive review of Cuomo's privatization idea, including a comparison to making LIPA a fully public utility.

AARP New York representative William Ferris said the group is concerned that rates could balloon after a proposed three-year rate freeze. Cuomo's staff has said rates would never increase more than they would under LIPA.

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