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Letters: Retain government control of LIPA

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks during

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks during a news conference in the Red Room at the Capitol in Albany. (Sept. 19, 2012) Credit: AP

In response to the editorial "Pull the plug on LIPA" [Nov. 18]: In 1985, the Long Island Lighting Co. took the ire of Long Island residents and politicians alike when 750,000 outages wreaked havoc after Hurricane Gloria.

With the dismal mismanagement at the Shoreham Nuclear Power Station and after years of hearing that LILCO only cared about the shareholders, New York State formed the Long Island Power Authority.

That made LIPA officially a municipal subdivision of the state. The state Public Service Commission allowed the sale of the transmission system and gas service to KeySpan Corp., which was then sold to National Grid. LIPA remains as a hollow retail outlet for electric power on Long Island.

Truly, the failure in management lies in almost 30 years of lack of meaningful oversight from the PSC. Now all voices call for a private takeover of LIPA. I say, been there, done that!

New York's state government should do the job it was entrusted with near 30 years ago.

Rudolph M. Vilardi, Islip

Newsday admits that when electrical service for Long Island was privately owned by LILCO, it was seriously flawed and led to the present public agency, LIPA, which also is flawed. Yet Newsday recommends we go back to the original flawed method by privatizing a utility service that everyone must have.

I beg to differ. Which is the lesser of two evils? Perhaps the answer lies in answering the following question: Which scenario is more controllable by the public? The current agency, fully owned and overseen by the public, or a private entity ruled by profits, shareholder greed and all the wrong motives to delivering a necessary product? I suggest the former.

Case in point: I lived in Florida for 35 years, where Florida Power & Light Co., a privately held utility with public oversight, provided power to the megalopolis of southeastern Florida. After Hurricane Wilma came through in 2005, about three-quarters of FPL's 4.3 million customers were without electricity -- for weeks (I was without for 17 days).

We learned that FPL was planning to sell to another privately held company. To make itself look more profitable, FPL had stopped investing in its infrastructure for years, leading to a very poor electrical grid. At the same time, the utility's directors voted themselves bonuses.

Privatizing a service that everyone relies on is not the answer, especially not in the current atmosphere of unmitigated corporate greed. Stronger oversight, with experts to oversee the utility's day-to-day operations, and appointment of people who are not political hacks but rather have the public's best interests as their goal, is the better way to address these problems.

Once Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's investigation determines what caused the problems after Sandy, the legislature should pass any laws necessary to stop those practices and beef up oversight, or mandate better enforcement of existing laws. The governor should then appoint different people to the oversight board, experts who are above politics and who have the authority to check salaries and compensation, infrastructure and technology necessary to bring LIPA into the 21st century.

Haven't we learned the pitfalls of privatization? Or are we doomed to repeat our history?

Joanne Fanizza, Massapequa Park


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