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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Wednesday he would “aggressively” move to give a New Jersey utility nearly complete control of Long Island’s electric grid, intending to have some major pieces in place by the end of June.
Long Island lawmakers briefed on the governor’s plan said they generally support the idea, although one said the "very, very tight timetable" is a concern. They also are pushing for more public involvement and a temporary rate freeze.
Newsday reported last week that Cuomo had scrapped a plan to dissolve the Long Island Power Authority and privatize the system. Instead, the governor wants to greatly shrink LIPA’s responsibilities and have PSEG of Newark -- which was set already to take over management of the Island's electric grid in January -- to consider expanding the scope of the contract.
Under this scenario, PSEG would be responsible not only for the operation and maintenance of the electric system, but also would control capital and operating budgets, storm preparedness and response, call centers, computer systems and customer service -- just about everything.
LIPA would remain as essentially a financial holding company, Cuomo said Wednesday. To help reduce the burden of LIPA's $6.9 billion debt, the proposal would still seek to "securitize" -- or sell off -- a portion of LIPA's debt.
“On the theory of strike while the iron is hot, we’re going to be pushing forward very aggressively with a change for LIPA,” Cuomo said at a cabinet meeting.
Just before that, the Democrat briefed Long Island Assembly Democrats on the plan, who said they were encouraged.
“We all know that privatization is wildly unpopular,” said Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove), adding that turning LIPA into a full-service, municipalized operation wasn’t likely either.
“So this seems to be the most viable of the alternatives,” Lavine said of the Cuomo plan.
"The governor wants this to happen by the end of session,” Assemb. Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) said, referring to the Legislature’s June 20 adjournment. “It’s a very, very tight timetable.”
The Cuomo administration didn’t immediately delineate what legislation it would need to enact the plan.