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Sen. Fuschillo calls for audit of LIPA’s $30M Earl bill

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Following reports that the Long Island Power Authority spent an estimated $30 million on Hurricane Earl, leaving customers to potentially face a rate increase, New York State Sen. Charles Fuschillo Jr. and other area lawmakers requested this past week that State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli conduct an audit of LIPA’s handling of the situation.

Fuschillo, a Republican from Merrick, said, "I certainly understand LIPA’s desire to be prepared for the worst, but spending an estimated $30 million to pay for out-of-state crews who were not used seems excessive given that forecasts showed the storm was unlikely to hit the majority of the Island. The state comptroller should review LIPA’s handling of the situation and see if there is a better and more cost-efficient way for them to prepare in the future."

DiNapoli, a Democrat, ordered a review of LIPA’s billing for Hurricane Earl, which could lead to a full audit.

LIPA estimated that it spent about $30 million to pay for 1,600 outside utility contractors to come to Long Island in preparation for the storm. To date, LIPA has had to fund a total of $102 million in storm preparation and restoration costs for 2010, including Hurricane Earl, but budgeted $27 million for storm response. LIPA officials would not rule out raising rates to make up for the expenditures and said they were following proper procedures in preparing for Earl.

"With LIPA customers already paying some of the highest utility rates in the country, we need to be sure that the authority is operating in the most-cost efficient manner as possible," Fuschillo said. "The state comptroller’s audit would benefit ratepayers by identifying potential savings that would still allow LIPA to provide quality service."

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