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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

LIPA still making headlines on Long Island

Two linesman work on power lines on Meacham

Two linesman work on power lines on Meacham Avenue in Elmont as LIPA and other utility crews work to repair damaged poles and downed lines on Aug. 27, 2013. Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

The Long Island Power Authority has yet to vanish.

True, its role is sharply diminished by a new state law enacted last year. Yes, it has officially become subordinate in key ways to PSEG Long Island, now the Island's electricity operator, as part of what policymakers call a "hybrid" privatization.

Just the same, the pared-down LIPA, under new management, keeps cropping up in Nassau and Suffolk news.

East Hampton Town recently issued a stop-work order, related to a substation in Amagansett. In court, James Ryan, a lawyer for PSEG and LIPA, argued last week that LIPA is exempt from building codes and permit requirements on land it owns, as reported by Newsday's Mark Harrington.

Last month, LIPA trustees approved changes to rate-making rules to allow PSEG Long Island to collect funds earlier levied as a state tax and apply them to system improvements. Only one trustee, former Democratic Assemb. Marc Alessi, voted against the measure, saying the $26 million at stake could have been passed on to ratepayers.

When Port Washington residents rallied March 23 against a PSEG Long Island plan involving high-voltage power cables on 85-foot poles, Republican North Hempstead Town Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio was quoted telling demonstrators that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo "is the entity that can put pressure on LIPA, who can put pressure on PSEG to deal with us fairly."

Also, LIPA and the New York Power Authority are looking to renegotiate a soon-to-expire contract to purchase energy and capacity from a NYPA plant in Holtsville. And a judge rejected motions by LIPA and National Grid to stop a lawsuit over superstorm Sandy's aftermath. LIPA remains a relevant party as well in a proposed offshore wind farm project, and in plans to rebuild the big power plant in Port Jefferson.

"LIPA never worked and it never will and the time has come to abolish LIPA, period," Cuomo said in his 2013 State of the State address, delivered weeks after Sandy struck. "A privatized LIPA will service Long Island and do it in a way that protects ratepayers."

On Friday, Cuomo spokesman Matt Wing said the overhaul worked out with the State Legislature in the subsequent months is suitably described as privatization, under a "hybrid" model, even if the system is not fully private like Con Edison.

Of course, power delivery remains complicated and costly, with LIPA still under a long-term debt burden, which no operational reform will likely alter.

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