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State holds meetings on LIPA plan

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, center, speaks during a

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, center, speaks during a news conference about freezing Long Islanders' energy rates for three years as part of a proposal to end operating control of the Long Island Power Authority. He is seated with Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), left, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan). (May 13, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

The first of two public meetings on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's plan to overhaul the Long Island electric utility convenes at SUNY Old Westbury Wednesday night amid sharply divided opinions about whether the proposal will benefit beleaguered LIPA ratepayers.

The meetings, for which attendees must RSVP with an email to the Cuomo administration, will include presentations by Cuomo's senior staff, the Moreland Commission -- empaneled to review utilities' performance after superstorm Sandy -- and new system operator PSEG of New Jersey. Those interested in attending can send an email to: RSVP.LI@exec.ny.gov.

Ratepayers will have an opportunity to ask questions at the Nassau meeting, which starts at 6:30 p.m. in the Multipurpose Room of SUNY Old Westbury's Student Union, 223 Store Hill Rd. The Suffolk meeting is tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. at the Western Suffolk BOCES Conference Center, 31 Lee Ave., Wheatley Heights.

Some are complaining the sessions, formally announced Saturday, won't provide enough time for meaningful debate on the plan, or enough time for deliberation before an anticipated State Legislature vote by June 20, when the current session ends.

"We're glad they are having hearings, but we're really disappointed about the timing and lack of notice," said Jeannie Appleman, coordinator for Long Island Congregations, Associations and Neighborhoods, an activist group. She said the group of 35,000 members doesn't support Cuomo's proposed legislation "in its current form."

She expects to have 100 members at Wednesday night's meeting.

The Cuomo administration is calling the forums meetings, not hearings, which the Department of State defines as gatherings in which the public is afforded "a right to be heard." Meetings need not offer the public a chance to be heard, but the administration said it will allow public comments and questions.

Spokesman Matthew Wing said transcribers will attend the meetings to take comments from people who aren't able to comment publicly. The administration will provide a toll-free telephone number and email address for comments.

Cuomo, Wing said, is "committed to establishing a new Long Island utility that actually works for the people of Long Island. These public meetings will give residents in Nassau and Suffolk an opportunity to ask questions and learn firsthand about the governor's proposal and offer their feedback."

One person who said he was asked by the Cuomo administration to attend the meeting and provide comments is Martin Cantor, director of the Long Island Center for Socio-Economic Policy, a Melville think tank, a supporter of the legislation. He was asked "to share my opinions," which include "supporting PSEG running the grid and having a scaled-down" LIPA.

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