State legislators and local public officials reacted with cautious optimism this week to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announced plans to revamp the Long Island Power Authority by supplanting LIPA’s role in its daily operations with Public Service & Gas Co. of New Jersey.
In a press conference on Monday, Cuomo also proposed freezing rates over three years for LIPA, which has been severely criticized for its high service rates and slow response to natural disasters for years. Protracted outages that occurred after Hurricane Sandy struck Long Island first prompted Cuomo’s proposal to recast LIPA.
“The reforming of Long Island’s electric utility is a step in the right direction,” said state Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel (D-Great Neck). “However, I have yet to see the governor’s proposed legislation, which will frame how this new plan will be implemented.”
Schimel said she has given Cuomo “a detailed list of imperatives” she wants to see in his plan, including public hearings, a debt management plan, strict oversight over the utility provider, and a stable rate base. I look forward to working with the governor and my legislative colleagues so we can have a plan in place before the end of the legislative session
“The three-year rate freeze and restructuring of debt is a great first step in reducing energy costs and I hope that we can go further and actually lower energy rates long-term,” said state Assemblyman Ed Ra (R-Franklin Square). “The changes to LIPA’s infrastructure are critically important, particularly in the face of their utter failure to provide reliable, quality customer service and communication when our residents needed it after Superstorm Sandy.”
Late Tuesday afternoon Ra said he was in the process of reviewing the details of the legislation Cuomo is proposing.
But, he said, “It’s painfully clear that the status quo is not working for Long Island and I’m hopeful that the changes proposed today are the first step towards the low-cost, reliable energy and customer service our residents deserve.”
Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman, who had been rumored to be Cuomo’s choice to run LIPA last year, also spoke in support of the governor’s plan.
“Gov. Cuomo’s proposal today will finally create a new utility company on Long Island to replace LIPA,” Kaiman said. “His plan, which includes privatizing operations, improving customer service, reducing the costs of LIPA debt, and putting the utility under strong oversight, will mean better results for ratepayers.”
Kaiman praised Cuomo for being responsive to customers in North Hempstead who have wanted to see changes in LIPA for years.
“Gov. Cuomo has listened and is delivering on a plan that works for us. I thank him for advocating on behalf of all ratepayers across Long Island,” Kaiman said.