Legislative panel delays hearings, final report on moving to a fully public LIPA
A state commission on the future of LIPA will “reset the schedule” for future hearings and production of a final report to later this year, ending the prospect that legislation to enable a fully public LIPA will be approved in the legislative session that ends June 8.
In a release following a meeting in Albany on Tuesday, the commission also cited the firing of GDS Associates, one of two consulting firms that helped prepare the draft report on LIPA’s future. The commission cited “misconduct of a GDS employee during a Zoom meeting” of the commission’s advisory committee last month, when the employee reportedly disrobed and masturbated.
“The legislature and the commission have a zero-tolerance policy toward sexual harassment and related wrongdoing,” said Sen. Kevin Thomas (D-Levittown) in a statement.
A fully public LIPA could save ratepayers tens of millions of dollars in costs a year by eliminating the profit motive of an investor-owned utility, such as PSEG Long Island, to operate the grid under contract, the commission found. PSEG’s contract to operate the grid expires at the end of 2025.
LIPA has discussed making contingency plans to solicit bids from new service providers by year’s end, if the State Assembly and Senate don't act in the current session to approve new legislation required to make LIPA fully public. LIPA can still pivot to a fully municipal model if legislation is approved in early 2024, officials said, but the prospect could complicate the bidding process.
Under the new schedule for the commission, public hearings will take place in September and the deadline for producing a final report to the legislature will shift to November.
“This will allow the commission to continue to proceed with transparency and deliberation, while still delivering a plan well in advance of the next legislative session,” which starts in January, the commission said in a statement.
PSEG, which has been extensively advocating to keep the current public-private operating model, last week argued that the commission “failed to resolve many critical questions” before new legislation could be drawn up and voted on by the legislature.
Lisa Tyson, executive director for the activist Long Island Progressive Coalition and a co-chair of the commission’s advisory committee, said she believes a fully public LIPA can “absolutely” still happen under the new timeline.
“It still works,” she said. “There’s still plenty of time to transition to a fully public LIPA.”
Added the commission co-chairman, Assemb. Fred Thiele (D-Sag Harbor), “We look forward to continuing our robust efforts to engage the public and stakeholders in helping us shape our final report to the Legislature.."