Editorial: $5 LIPA refund is just for show
You just won $5 from the Long Island Power Authority. The bad news? You're funding the $5 prize going to pretty much every other Long Island resident courtesy of LIPA, as well as the $140 that nearly every business will get from its friendly power provider.
Since LIPA is a public authority, funded by only its customers, it can't give ratepayers a break that does not, sooner or later, come out of their own pockets.
This point was made clear Monday when, at the same meeting at which the rebates were announced, officials said LIPA could be out as much as $250 million, of an estimated $950 million total in Sandy-related costs, if it is not reimbursed 100 percent by the federal government. The money would have to be raised through higher rates for the next 10 years.
The $5 refund came about because the authority is under fire for levying its daily service fee of 36 cents (more for commercial customers) on account holders who lost power after the superstorm. Paying a fee for a stream of power you couldn't get is aggravating, and if LIPA could refund the fee to customers for the days they went without, it might make sense. But LIPA can't do that, because it doesn't know whose power was out, or for how long. So every customer gets paid, by every customer, for a total of about $5 million.
This refund is neither good news nor bad news. It's sad news, because it's a public relations manipulation, when LIPA needs to focus its energy on improving service and communication.