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LIPA oversight panel a step closer to revival

The Suffolk Legislature took the first step Monday toward reviving an oversight committee that would scrutinize operations of Long Island Power Authority on behalf of local consumers.

The legislature's public works committee approved the resolution 4-1 after an attempt to table the measure failed on a 2-3 vote. The full legislature could vote on the proposal next Tuesday in Riverhead.

Legis. Thomas Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma), the bill's sponsor, said his proposal was not aimed at any specific actions of LIPA or New Jersey's Public Service Energy Group, now the primary service provider under a revised setup where LIPA has a diminished role. He said a committee is needed merely to provide some level of public review of the utility actions.

"It's all about accountability," he said. "People have a right to make sure that someone is looking over the utility to make sure they are doing things the right way."

The oversight committee will be charged with holding hearings and issuing periodic reports analyzing utility rates, contract practices and disaster and storm response.

Jeff Weir, PSEG Long Island's spokesman, said the company will review the legislation but "looks forward to working with everyone to provide the best electric service that Long Islanders deserve." LIPA officials had no immediate response.

The Suffolk Legislature has long taken an activist role with Long Island's electric utility, first opposing the construction of the Shoreham nuclear plant, later advocating public power and filing a lawsuit over rate issues. The Nassau Legislature has no similar oversight committee.

A previous oversight committee, created in 2010 under legislation sponsored by former Presiding Officer Wayne Horsley (D-Babylon), expired at year's end after Horsley left the legislature to take a job as regional head of state park.

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