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LIPA: Puerto Rico storm aid cost $25M, will be reimbursed

Ratepayers have fronted $25 million in costs for PSEG Long Island and LIPA to send work crews and equipment to Puerto Rico to help rebuild the island’s storm-ravaged electric grid.

The money, LIPA officials stressed during a recent trustee meeting, will be reimbursed.

Under the direction of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, LIPA, along with other utilities in the state and the New York Power Authority, last year began sending crews and equipment to help Puerto Rico get back power after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. The figure for LIPA’s cost layout was previously unavailable, and the Cuomo administration has not put a figure on the state’s total outlay for the efforts. Cuomo representatives didn’t respond to a request for comment.

LIPA officials at a trustee meeting last week said the authority will carry the cost of the efforts as a receivable on its books until it’s repaid. LIPA is expecting reimbursement from the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, the financially strapped utility that is involved in a bankruptcy-like process called Title III. PREPA, as the utility is called, is expecting 100 percent reimbursement for its restoration efforts from the federal government, LIPA officials said.

Around 40 of the 50 workers PSEG/LIPA provided for the Puerto Rico restoration effort had been on Long Island for federally funded storm-hardening work for LIPA through a $730 million grant following devastation from superstorm Sandy. PSEG spokeswoman Brooke Houston said all crews and equipment are now back on Long Island.

Houston said PSEG has made “good progress in processing invoices” for the work in Puerto Rico, though the timing of the reimbursement “is not yet determined.”

LIPA trustee Jeff Greenfield noted there was a “wrinkle” in the account receivable LIPA would hold for the Puerto Rico work because “the utility there is bankrupt.”

Greenfield noted that the bills should be carried on LIPA’s books “as a due bill, an accounts receivable.”

“Which we are,” responded LIPA chief executive Tom Falcone. “It’s an accounts receivable from PREPA, who will be paid by FEMA for 100 percent reimbursement.”

LIPA trustee Matthew Cordaro, who first raised the issue, called it a “big issue statewide,” which made news recently when Cuomo declined to provide a figure on the amount of state aid that has been provided to Puerto Rico.

When asked about the reimbursement plan last November, a PSEG spokeswoman said, “PSEG Long Island/LIPA will pay its employees and will invoice the New York Power Authority; NYPA will invoice PREPA; PREPA will invoice FEMA,” the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

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