LIPA Credit: Howard Schnapp

Days after the State Senate passed a bill that would mandate greater scrutiny of LIPA rate increases, lawmakers from across Long Island are scheduled to meet at a public hearing today to take a critical look at the authority's financial practices.

The Senate hearing, called by Sen. Charles Fuschillo, will examine February revelations that the Long Island Power Authority overbilled customers $231 million over the past several years because of a faulty formula for calculating power that leaks unbilled from the local grid.

Fuschillo, in a statement Wednesday, said the hearing will also examine LIPA's recently reported overcollection of $136 million last year for fuel-related expenses -- funds that LIPA is returning this year through a power supply charge reduction.

Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) sponsored the Senate bill passed Monday that would mandate all LIPA increases over 2.5 percent be reviewed by the Public Service Commission. Commission chairman Garry Brown is to attend today's hearing, which is scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m. at Farmingdale State College.

"These overcharges would have been picked up by PSC audits," said LaValle, who expects a similar bill, sponsored by Assemb. Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst), to pass in the Assembly. "Our job will be to convince Gov. [Andrew M.] Cuomo" that ratepayers need the extra scrutiny mandated by the law, LaValle said.

Among the speakers, in addition to more than half a dozen lawmakers, is Matthew Cordaro, recently named co-chairman of the Suffolk Legislature's LIPA oversight committee, and Martin Cantor, executive director of the Long Island Economic and Social Policy Institute at Dowling College.

Cantor said he will focus on the need for more LIPA oversight, something the authority has actively lobbied against, saying it will cost ratepayers money. Cantor disputed that. "Not having oversight from an independent PSC has allowed LIPA's mission to be subverted, costing ratepayer dollars on past projects such as fuel cells and wind farm initiatives that return way too little energy for their high costs."

Vanessa Baird-Streeter, a LIPA spokeswoman, said the authority will make a statement and field questions. "We look forward to presenting the information in a comprehensive way," Baird-Streeter said.

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