It’s been five months since Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the shores of Long Island, and the state government, led by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, continues the process of reworking its utility storm and preparation response.
Last November, Cuomo launched the Moreland Commission to conduct a comprehensive study of the state’s utility companies’ storm preparation, and asked the commission to place extra emphasis on the Long Island Power Authority, which was hit with a firestorm of criticism for its response to the storm. The commission released a 58-page interim report in January, which included recommendations on how to restructure the utility.
It suggested privatizing LIPA by selling its assets to a private company. “There is no question that LIPA could be operated much more efficiently than it is today,” the report read, “particularly if it was purchased by an existing electric utility company which could share staff, facilities and systems.”
The commission’s secondary recommendation was to fully municipalize LIPA, thereby giving it full control of the island’s transmission and distribution system, and ending its contractor management agreement with National Grid. Currently, LIPA, which has about 100 employees, contracts National Grid to operate the transmission and distribution of electricity on Long Island. National Grid has 2,000 employees on Long Island.
State Assemblyman Tom McKevitt, who represents East Meadow, has been working with the Assembly, the governor and the Senate on the transition. However, McKevitt said that the various proposals have hit a crossroads. “There was a lot of momentum after the storm,” he said. “But there are huge legal and financial issues that must be overcome, and we’re all trying to come to a solution. But there’s no easy solution to this.”
LIPA and National Grid
The Moreland Commission comprises 10 appointed members who hold, or once held, prominent political positions in New York state, including a former attorney general, an upstate county executive, a former chair of the Public Service Commission and current Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice.