After Sandy, Long Islanders getting overhauled power service

Story highlights

  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs law reducing role of Long Island Power Authority
  • Longstanding criticism of LIPA peaked after Superstorm Sandy in the fall
  • New Jersey's Public Service Enterprise Group will oversee day-to-day operations
  • One riled customer: "LIPA to me stands for Largely Incompetent Power Authority"
In an attempt to end customer dissatisfaction that peaked after Superstorm Sandy last fall, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo took the unusual step of privatizing electric utility operations in Long Island on Monday by reducing the role of the Long Island Power Authority.
The new law he signed will make LIPA -- formerly a nonprofit municipal electric provider -- a holding company. It will give gradual power to New Jersey's Public Service Enterprise Group starting in January.
According to a news release from Cuomo's office, the New Jersey group will have "full authority over the utility's day-to-day operations" and will also allow a rate freeze until the end of 2015.
Long Island customers have been unsatisfied with the company for many years, but complaints hit new highs after the utility's handling of Superstorm Sandy.
"LIPA to me stands for Largely Incompetent Power Authority," Edward Woody Ryder IV, a LIPA customer who lost power for four days, said to CNN on Monday.
"LIPA is a good example of bureaucratic good intentions gone bad."
Another LIPA customer, Jonathan Saporta, who lost power to his business for more than three months, echoed these statements, saying he was as unsatisfied with LIPA "as you humanly could be."
"Anything's better than what they do now," Saporta said. "But the root problem is the infrastructure is out of date. If you had God himself running LIPA, it wouldn't matter. You can't run that organization with their infrastructure."
According to the news release, PSEG is New Jersey's oldest and largest investor owned utility, and it will also be handling infrastructure improvements as well as storm preparedness.
"We look forward to the opportunity to bring this kind of service to the people of Long Island and the Rockaways," Dave Daly, PSEG vice president, said at a news conference.
LIPA will also have a reduced board of nine members, who will still be responsible for rate decisions. However, the decisions must be based on information and recommendations by the Department of Public Services. The new law also stipulates that should LIPA board members wish to disregard those recommendations, a public hearing must be held.
"The legislation that was signed into law today ends the LIPA as we know it, and creates a new utility system that puts Long Island ratepayers first," Cuomo said Monday. "LIPA has offered lackluster service for too long, and after its failure to perform during Superstorm Sandy, it was clear we needed a change."
LIPA had no comment.