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Maragos to Cuomo: Repair LIPA Before Next Storm

A weekly look-in at the news of Nassau County.

In a letter to New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos asked for urgent action to repair the Long Island Power Authority’s management team and make permanent the temporary fixes LIPA has performed to the electrical system before the next major storm.

Maragos estimated that the county has lost close to $1 billion in consumer sales since Hurricane Sandy struck Long Island. The comptroller said that Cuomo cannot wait for the Moreland Commission investigation to be completed before significant changes are made at LIPA.

In his letter, Maragos stated his support for the governor’s appointing the commission to study and plan for the long term needs but offered significant recommendations to make our electric supply more reliable, with greater accountability and lower rates.

“The sad reality is that Long Island residents and our local economy have suffered significant damage,” Maragos said. “We realized how dependent we have become to a power supply monopoly that has proven mismanaged and unprepared. We must not allow this situation to occur again when the next natural disaster strikes.”

Maragos continued to say that the entire economy of the region cannot continue to be at the mercy of LIPA.

The following recommendations were offered to the Governor to help fix LIPA before the next major storm:

  1. Install a top notch professional utility management team as soon as possible to take over LIPA. The Governor’s statements correctly concluded that the source of the extended outages was LIPA’s management and their lack of emergency preparation. The Long Island economy must never again suffer because of inept management at LIPA. The resignation of Chief Operating Officer Michael Hervey presents the immediate opportunity to completely revamp the management at LIPA with top notch utility professionals.
  2. Require LIPA to go back and make temporary repairs permanent. Utility professionals are aware that after Hurricane Irene temporary repairs were made to the infrastructure and possibly again now after Superstorm Sandy in order to get the power restored. LIPA must make these repairs permanent so that the next storm will not be as likely to bring down power to thousands of Long Islanders.
  3. Insource LIPAOperations. LIPA currently outsources its transmission system operations and maintenance to National Grid, a European Company, and recently decided to continue outsourcing to New Jersey’s PSE&G beginning in 2014. Transmission operation and maintenance are the core functions of a utility and must not be outsourced. The next time we have a regional disaster; Long Islanders must not be second priority to New Jersey residents. LIPA must assume the operational responsibility of its system and be accountable to its customers in Suffolk and Nassau Counties.
  4. Deregulate the market for providing power on Long Island. The best long term solution for reliable electricity and lower rates is a competitive marketplace. The LIPA monopoly on Long Island is a relic whose time has passed. Power sourcing is already competitive. Transmission companies should be allowed to compete with a proviso that new transmission entrants install underground cabling. I am confident this would provide Long Island more reliable service at lower rates which will be a boost to our local economy and create thousands of new jobs. Deregulation occurred in the Cable Television industry. It can happen in the power transmission industry.

Late Legislator Predicted LIPA Problems

The late Peter Schmitt, formerly the Nassau County Legislative Majority Leader, may have seen the recent problems with LIPA coming way in advance.

Newsday [paid link] has reported:

Schmitt, who died suddenly last month, called for an investigation into LIPA in March 2010 after an unnamed storm with hurricane-force winds blew through Long Island, toppling trees and knocking out power for hundreds of homes. Residents, particularly along the South Shore, were without power for up to five days.

“The most frustrating thing for the residents and for us, the legislators, is we can’t get any information," Schmitt told Newsday after the storm in 2010. "If my office can’t get through to them, what’s an average resident supposed to do?”

Schmitt added, prophetically, “If this has taken so long, what is a hurricane going to be like?”

Chris Wendt November 19, 2012 at 06:50 PM
I think the cost to bury existing overhead power lines would run in excess of $6,000 per home, excluding non-power lines on existing utility poles (cable, fiberoptics, and copper telcon). There is significant evidence that burying electric cables does not prevent outages, because underground vaults are not water-tight and are not air conditioned. Since LIPA owns and maintains the utility poles, they would still have some expense unless everything else that is not power related was also either buried or went completely wireless, i.e. came off the poles and the poles were removed. But with the prospect of a massive increase in wireless transmission of TV, voice and data streams, people would have to accept the correspondingly massive increase in what are known as cell towers. Who is up for that? One less drastic solution could be to change the local grid and provide convenient tap-in locations to connect trailer-mounted generators to provide power to rectangles of 16 blocks of homes in residential areas. Another change would be to make existing transformers more fault-tolerant, capable of being re-set remotely, and, when they do fail, make their design more plug-and-play to reduce replacement time and effort. Already an outstanding recommendation is to replace LIPA's grid communication system. Doing so, especially with an eye to expediting identification of "low-hanging fruit" would address many small, quick repairs after an event.
Frank November 19, 2012 at 07:01 PM
@ irene. the first 20 years on the note is just for interest: http://libn.com/2011/12/14/report-states-lipa-debt-tops-10b/
Frank November 19, 2012 at 07:02 PM
the Shoreham debt is $10,000 per home. and you get nothing for that.
Chris Wendt November 19, 2012 at 08:22 PM
You get a bill for it. And that is then money NOT available to be used to upgrade the system. It is called "sunk money",

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