We need to change LIPA, but with care

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Local unions are worried that PSE&G would transfer its own workers from New Jersey instead of keeping the jobs on Long Island. Don Daley, a representative of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1049, requested that call centers be staffed by Long Islanders.

In March, a spokeswoman for PSE&G told the Herald that the New Jersey-based company had created a separate subsidiary for Long Island that would be focused solely on the needs of Long Island. The deal should mandate that PSE&G hire from within local communities. I trust that this subsidiary would be sustained, as jobs are a legitimate concern.

I agree that LIPA must be overhauled, but my biggest concern is that this deal is being rushed, and it may lack oversight. It removes LIPA’s staff, and takes the state comptroller, the attorney general and, for the most part, the Public Service Commission out of the picture. Under the bill, the Public Service Commission would only have an advisory role and no real enforcement power; LIPA trustees would still set the rates. This is backward.

The State Senate must approve Governor Cuomo’s bill. I urge the senators not to rush to a conclusion.

LIPA is a public entity with a massive amount of debt, and we cannot afford a weak deal. A lower interest rate must be secured for the debt, while at the same time reducing customer rates.

It is important to note that, like LIPA, PSE&G would not be permitted to build its own power generating facilities, meaning that both companies would have no assets, only debt that taxpayers are responsible for.

Bureaucracy accounts for many of the problems with LIPA’s operations. A PSE&G takeover would require more regulation, which would undoubtedly impact the company’s ability to provide services at the lowest costs possible.

The people of Long Island suffered a great deal after Hurricane Sandy. Let’s not allow this deal to do more harm than good. Additional oversight would be necessary. I urge the governor to reach out to community leaders, hold more public hearings and listen to the concerns of the people.

Al D’Amato, a former U.S. senator from New York, is the founder of Park Strategies LLC, a public policy and business development firm. Comments about this column? ADAmato@liherald.com.

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