Two state legislators will file legislation to create a commession...

Two state legislators will file legislation to create a commession to study the issue of making the Long Island Power Authority a fully public utility. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Two Long Island lawmakers on Wednesday will introduce a bill that calls for a new legislative commission to investigate and issue a report on the prospect of a fully public LIPA, according to a draft of the bill shown to Newsday.

Under the measure, the state legislative panel would issue a draft report of findings and recommendations by next December.

The legislation envisions implementation of the public power model for LIPA, "no later than 2025."

Sponsors Assemb. Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) and Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport), told Newsday Wednesday the legislation to create the commission will be modeled on past measures that cleared the way for water resource preservation and enactment of the Long Island Pine Barrens Protection Act.

"We tried to build on what has worked in the past … for Long Island to get answers to questions like this," Thiele said.

"We want the public to be involved and we want every question to be answered," he said.

The plan comes just days before LIPA trustees are to vote on a new contract with PSEG Long Island, which manages utility operations for LIPA.

Gaughran and Thiele have called on LIPA to delay that process, at least until State Attorney General Letitia James completes a review of PSEG's 2020 storm response.

Activists and other groups this month called on LIPA to drop PSEG Long Island as its long-power provider and move toward a fully public power model, which could save the utility more than $80 million a year in management fees.

PSEG said it has remedied the problems and looks forward to remaining LIPA's grid operator.

Critics of the PSEG deal say public power models are more reliable and result in cheaper rates for customers.

PSEG has been under fire since widespread failures during Tropical Storm Isaias in August 2020, which left more than 535,000 customers without power for up to a week.

PSEG’s computer and telecom systems failed during the storm.

A LIPA task force found the company did not disclose problems with a computer system upgrade in the weeks and months leading up to the 2020 storm season.

LIPA says its new contract with PSEG remedies those problems.

The agreement requires PSEG to show greater autonomy from its New Jersey parent, and to have a dedicated computer system and add staffers on Long Island.

If PSEG Long Island were to fail to meet some 100 new service metrics, about half its $80 million annual management fee would be at risk.

The bill would create a Legislative Commission on the Future of the Long Island Power Authority consisting of eight members — four from the Senate and four from the Assembly, with the majority party appointing most members.

It would also create an advisory committee of up to 15 members from businesses, labor, local governments, Indian tribes, economic development, school districts and consumer groups, to "actively assist" the commission.

The panel's final report would be due to the State Legislature by April 1, 2023.

Asked why the committee wouldn't act sooner, Thiele said the 2025 date, which coincides with the expiration of PSEG's contract, would be the end date beyond which there "would not be any more extensions."

Thiele added, "If we can do it in the first year we'll do it."

Gaughran said the plan must also get support from legislators and Gov. Kathy Hochul, whose administration has supported the new PSEG contract.

LIPA would pay PSEG around $60 million if it decides to terminate the contract next year, and the fee decreases over time, said LIPA chief Tom Falcone. He noted LIPA has offered its own analysis of possible future business models and said, "We welcome review and will implement the findings of the Governor, Legislature, and stakeholders on the model that will best deliver clean, reliable, and customer-first electric service."

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