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Senate passes bill requiring LIPA/PSEG disclose lobbying activities

State Sen. James Gaughran introduced a bill that

State Sen. James Gaughran introduced a bill that would require LIPA and PSEG to file twice-annual reports on their lobbying and advertising activity.   Credit: Barry Sloan

The State Senate this week passed a measure that would require LIPA and its main contractor, PSEG Long Island, to file detailed public reports of their lobbying and advertising activities.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport), would require LIPA and PSEG to file a twice-yearly "expenditure and lobbying report" to be submitted to the leaders of the State Senate and Assembly, and the governor.

What to Know

  • The Senate has passed a bill requiring LIPA and PSEG to file twice-annual reports on their lobbying and advertising activity.
  • Both companies already file lobbying reports with the state.
  • The bill would consolidate the reporting to increase transparency to lawmakers and ratepayers.
  • LIPA says it has "complied with all laws."

The bill notes that "questions have arisen as to whether all lobbying activities of the authority have been properly accounted for and reported," leaving ratepayers who ultimately fund those activities without a "clear picture of exactly how and why funding is expended."

A companion bill has been introduced in the Assembly by Assemb. Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor), but that bill hasn't received a full vote.

LIPA and PSEG already file lobbying records with the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics, listing the costs of lobbying, the general topics lobbied, and the branch of government they lobby. Gaughran in an interview said those filings could be used to comply with the law, but he'd require more information specifically from LIPA to list all efforts by its officials to lobby state officials, including informal meetings that aren't now disclosed.

The Senate bill would require specific information about the type of advertising PSEG and LIPA are doing, including its intended purpose. Gaughran said PSEG branding or corporate-image advertising should not be paid for by Long Island ratepayers. Though the current bill doesn't address who should pay, Gaughran said, "That should be paid for by their stockholders."

"I think all the PSEG feel-good ads are specifically designed to try to turn around their image and avoid a cancellation of the contract," Gaughran said, as LIPA reviews its relationship with PSEG after Tropical Storm Isaias.

PSEG in a statement said, "We won't comment on pending legislation."

LIPA, in a statement, said it has "at no time employed lobbyists to influence electric rates." The not-for-profit utility said it has "complied with all laws. We are reviewing the legislation and will continue to work with Sen. Gaughran in the best interest of LIPA’s 1.1 million customers."

A Newsday review of expenditures listed in the filings show that LIPA and PSEG both have employed lobbyists — PSEG more extensively.

Among expenditures in state filings, Mercury Public Affairs has an ongoing contract to lobby for PSEG Long Island valued at $10,000 a month. For the period between January 2021 and December 2022, PSEG is paying three of its own employees, at a pay range from $103 to $473 per hour, to lobby Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the state Public Service Commission, according to the filing.

PSEG also has an ongoing agreement with lobbying firm Tonio Burgos & Associates, paying that firm $7,500 a month for lobbying on "energy and natural resources — oil / fuel / gas," according to the filing. The work included "both grassroots and direct" lobbying, at the State Legislature and the governor's office, according to the filing.

LIPA has also filed disclosure statements for lobbying, using Jeffrey Guillot, partner in the firm Millennial Strategies, to lobby at a cost of $5,000 a month last year, according to financial statements. Among other things he provided "government affairs counsel in Suffolk County and Nassau County."

This story has been updated to remove a reference to David Gordon, who is a PSEG procurement analyst, not a lobbyist.

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