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Cuomo: LIPA 'failed the consumers' after Sandy

LIPA crews work to restore power in St.

LIPA crews work to restore power in St. James. (Nov. 7, 2012) Credit: Heather Walsh

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, describing the state's utility system as "archaic and obsolete," continued to blast LIPA officials for what he called a "failed" slow-moving response as tens of thousands of LIPA customers were still without power Thursday.

"They have failed the consumers," Cuomo said. "The management has failed consumers."

While 90 percent have power back since Sandy hit last Monday, Cuomo said it meant little to the 10 percent of customers still left in the dark.

Eleven days after Sandy struck Long Island, more than 200,000 LIPA customers were without power Thursday night. LIPA's website showed that as of 6:36 p.m., 142,000 were without power in Nassau County; 71,000 in Suffolk. Those outage numbers went up after Wednesday's nor'easter.

The governor said for some the situation is "intolerable."

"I know how hard it is for these families who are struggling," Cuomo said. "It has been long and it has been hard."

Cuomo said the utility system was a "1950s system" that needed a "ground up redesign."

The governor said LIPA "has failed in their agreement" with the state.

"We paid them and we gave them a franchise because they represented themselves as expert in doing this," Cuomo said. "They failed. They should be held accountable."

LIPA chief operating officer Michael Hervey's response to public criticism has been to keep working on the restoration.

While saying officials were focused on the immediate recovery efforts, Cuomo added that the state also had to gear up for a "second phase" long-term recovery plan that would involve "hardening" roadways, transportation and gas-delivery systems. Cuomo said the storm damage should serve as a lesson to rethink building requirements.

"Maybe Mother Nature is telling us something," Cuomo said. "There are places that are going to be victimized by storms, we know that now."

Cuomo said Wednesday's nor'easter exacerbated the area's gas shortage crisis, by delaying the arrival of scheduled tankers to the area. He said he is working with county officials to coordinate gas distribution efforts.

Superstorm Sandy caused roughly $50 billion in damage and economic lost -- $33 billion in New York State, Cuomo said.

"That is a staggering number," said Cuomo, noting it would add to the state's financial challenges, and it grapples with a projected $1 billion state deficit.

Cuomo pressed local governments to work quickly to pick up debris left by Sandy, calling it "a public health emergency" and noting that cleanup efforts will be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

He called the storm a "wake up call" that "extreme weather is here to stay."

"Climate change is a reality," Cuomo said. "That political argument has gridlocked us from moving forward for too long."

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