Tag Archive | "LIPA"

Pierson Students Evacuated Monday Due to Strange Odor

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A student navigates the halls of Pierson High School. Photo by Michael Heller.

A student navigates the halls of Pierson High School. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

Just before the end of the school day Monday, the students and staff of Pierson High School were evacuated after administrators observed electrical problems and smelled a strange odor coming from the basement.

“We started to have some blinking lights and we smelled an odor by the motors in the basement,” Dr. Carl Bonuso, interim superintendent for the Sag Harbor School District, said Tuesday morning. “So, as a precautionary measure in the interest, obviously, of safety, we did evacuate the building.”

Pierson students were dismissed on schedule to buses or for parent pick up. All after-school activities were cancelled. All belongings left behind were secured in the classrooms, the district said. The Sag Harbor Elementary School was not affected.

According to PSEG Long Island, roughly 337 customers in the area, including the school, were affected at 2:02 p.m. Monday afternoon due to a down wire. The problem was corrected and full service was restored by 2:43 p.m., PSEG representative Anthony S. said Tuesday.

The Sag Harbor Fire Department and electricians investigated the problem, addressing lighting and heating concerns, and cleared the building for “safety and proper operation” at around 3:30 p.m. the district said.

“This morning we’re pretty good,” Dr. Bonuso said early Tuesday morning.

In a letter sent out to parents, students and staff shortly after 4 p.m. Monday, the district wrote, “Rest assured that teachers will be forgiving of any homework or assignments that would have been otherwise due.”

“What we wanted to make sure was if someone didn’t have their book or notes to study, not only that they didn’t need to do the homework, but that they didn’t get penalized on an assessment,” Dr. Bonuso said.

On Tuesday morning, teachers supervised the retrieval of any belongings left behind by students the afternoon before.

“I commend the students and the staff,” said Dr. Bonuso, “they were all so cooperative and we handled that glitch very well.”

Thiele: Local Power Plants Should be Permitted

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New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. announced this week he has introduced legislation in the State Assembly which would permit local governments — county, city, town or village — on Long Island to consider the creation of municipal power companies.

There are over 40 municipalities across the state which have established municipal power companies, including a few on Long Island such as the villages of Greenport, Freeport, and Rockville Centre. Since 1986, local governments on Long Island have been prohibited from forming a new municipal utility by state law. The reason: the law that created the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), a state authority, preempts counties, towns, villages, and cities from establishing a municipal power company within LIPA’s service area.

“The original intent of LIPA was twofold: (1) to prevent the unsafe Shoreham Nuclear power Station from operating, and (2) to eliminate LILCO, a private utility and replace it with a public authority governed by a board elected by the people of Long Island,” said Thiele in a press release. “The second goal, a true public utility governed by Long Islanders, has never been fulfilled as it was envisioned in 1986. It has never been governed by Long Islanders, and it has never been a ‘real’ public utility. It has never been more than a ‘shell’ corporation operated by political appointees who then contracted out operations to another private company. The perversion of this intent has meant disaster for Long Island, most recently manifested by the LIPA response to Superstorm Sandy.”

“It is clear that the intent of the 1986 law and the goal of a state public utility for Long Island are not going to be fulfilled,” added Thiele. “LIPA will remain as an empty shell and the day to day operations of Long Island’s electric service will be performed by an out-of-state private utility company. The details of this proposal are still to be worked out. Whether this model will result in an accountable and transparent management structure that will provide reliable power and long term stable rates is also unclear. However, the possibility of public power should not be fully abandoned and the home rule powers of local government on Long Island should be restored. My bill would do both. In the future, Long Islanders should have the ability to choose municipal power, if they believe it would be superior to the proposed near-privatization model currently under consideration.”

“We should never limit any future options that could improve electric service for Long Islanders,” he added. “Long Island should not be treated differently than the rest of the state.”

 

Power, Gas Restored to Most of Suffolk County

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By Kathryn G. Menu

Despite a nor’easter that hampered crews trying to restore power to the literal thousands of Long Island residents still without electricity two and a half weeks after Hurricane Sandy, by Wednesday afternoon most of the East End was back on the grid with just a handful of residents still without power, according to the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA).

As of 12:37 p.m. on Wednesday, LIPA reported 1,983 customers in Suffolk County remained without power, nine in East Hampton Town, and 21 in Southampton Town.

According to LIPA, 99 percent of customers who can safely receive power are fully restored. Although LIPA power is available, up to 8,000 customers in Nassau and Suffolk and 27,000 in the Rockaways are unable to safely receive power without customer repairs, said LIPA in a press release issued on Tuesday night.

To date, more than 1.1 million LIPA customers have had service restored since Hurricane Sandy made landfall in southern New Jersey on October 29.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo blasted LIPA officials on Tuesday and announced he would have New York utilities investigated. The announcement came shortly before LIPA’s Chief Operating Officer Michael Hervey announced his resignation.

On Tuesday, Governor Cuomo signed an Executive Order to establish a commission under the Moreland Act that will investigate the response, preparation and management of New York’s power utility companies as storms like Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee have impacted the region over the last two years.

According to Governor Cuomo, the commission will examine and make recommendations to reform what he called the “overlapping responsibilities and missions” of New York’s utility companies and the governing bodies that oversee them.

On Tuesday, shortly after the Governor’s announcement, LIPA Chairman Howard E. Steinberg announced Hervey’s resignation. Hervey was with LIPA for 12 years, taking over as interim CEO two years ago.

“I think we have a system here that is so convoluted and lacking in accountability,” said New York Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele on Wednesday. “LIPA is basically a shell corporation filled with political appointments and they contract out for power, which has been with National Grid, which I never supported because of their lack of effectiveness in New Jersey.”

In July it was announced LIPA would transition its operating services agreement from National Grid to Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) starting in January of 2014 when the contract with National Grid expires.

“LIPA needs to be held accountable to the people of Long Island and the best way to do that is to have an elected board of trustees, something I have supported for a long time,” said Thiele.

While the East End also faced a gas shortage over the course of the last week and a half, as of this week the panic seemed to have died down and most stations have more than enough gas on hand to service clients.

On Friday, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone implemented an even, odd fueling policy, mandating only drivers with license plates ending in an even number can fuel up on even numbered days, with the same policy applying to odd numbered days.

According to Harbor Heights gas station manager Pam Kern, the decision came about a week too late and by the time she was told to implement that policy, it was unnecessary.

Harbor Heights, on Route 114 in Sag Harbor, said Kern is not expecting another shortage any time soon. Anthony Baker, who works at the Sag Harbor Getty Station on the Sag Harbor/Bridgehampton Turnpike said it was business as usual at his station as well.

Lights Returns to Main Street, Sag Harbor; Schools Remained Closed as East End Reels from Hurricane Sandy Aftermath

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By Kathryn G. Menu; Photography by Michael Heller

Hurricane Sandy pummeled the northeast on Monday and Tuesday, on the East End claiming the life of a Montauk resident, causing massive flooding and beach erosion, leaving close to 60,000 residents of the South Fork without power and closing local schools, some for as long as a week.

“Superstorm Sandy,” as the hurricane has been coined, made landfall just south of Atlantic City, N.J. around 8 p.m. as a “post-tropical cyclone,” flooding coastal areas from Delaware to Connecticut with a vicious storm surge and carrying winds as high as 90 miles per hour.

Both East Hampton and Southampton towns, as well as the South Fork villages declared a State of Emergency on Monday as Sandy approached the region, opening up shelters in Riverhead, Hampton Bays, East Hampton and at Pierson Middle/High School. Over 600 people made use of the shelters as the storm battered the East End, including about 30 residents of the Sag Harbor area who took shelter at the high school as of Monday evening, according to Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano.

Despite the damage, including one Wainscott beach-front home that was literally obliterated, among many others damaged by flooding and high winds, the East End was partially spared. Original models for Hurricane Sandy had her wrath impacting the East End of Long Island for as long as 24 hours, throughout Monday evening and into Tuesday afternoon. However, as Hurricane Sandy neared the coast the storm picked up momentum, the worst of the wind gusts affecting the East End in the evening on Monday instead of the prolonged hours of impact originally predicted.

While it may have not have appeared to be so for the thousands of residents and businesses without power by Wednesday afternoon, including Main Street, Sag Harbor, the East End was also sparred the brunt of power outages, roughly half of residents and business owners without power in East Hampton and Southampton Town, as opposed to the 85 percent of homes and businesses island-wide that were left in the dark, according to Long Island Power Authority spokesperson Mark Gross.

 

However, school districts across the South Fork remained closed as of Wednesday, with the East Hampton and Sag Harbor School Districts as well as Our Lady of the Hamptons (OLH) announcing they would not reopen for classes until Monday, November 5. Southampton School District will also remain closed today, Thursday, November 1, while the Bridgehampton School, which had power on Wednesday, reopened for classes today.

However, there was tragedy associated with the Sandy’s impact on the South Fork.

Edith “Dee” Wright, 52, of Montauk was confirmed by East Hampton Village Police to be the body discovered Tuesday morning on Georgica Beach in East Hampton.

It is believed that Wright was walking her dog on a beach in Montauk when she was carried into the ocean and perished.

Montauk appeared to take the brunt of the storm compared to the rest of the region, becoming an island for several hours Monday night as ocean waters met marsh after crossing Napeague Highway.

Because of the rising tide, impacted by the storm surge and full moon, several docks in Montauk reported damage.

In Sag Harbor, by Monday morning Bay Street was impassable between the Sag Harbor Yacht Club and the Sag Harbor VFW Chelberg & Battle Post 388, swans and ducks swimming in the makeshift lake that was created as rain began battering down on the region that afternoon.

Crews from the Sag Harbor Department of Public Works buoyed the John A. Ward Memorial Windmill on Long Wharf with barriers of sand to protect the delicate structure — now under restoration — from being swept up in the rising tide that lashed Windmill Beach, the Lance Corporal Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge and Long Wharf.

Flooding also occurred behind Main Street, Sag Harbor, creating another impassable water body on West Water Street and Long Island Avenue.

Sag Harbor Volunteer Fire Department officials made several rescues in the Redwood and Pine Neck areas of Sag Harbor, where officials were going door-to-door in an effort to evacuate residents living in low lying areas affected by a storm surge.

By Wednesday, the water behind Main Street had yet to fully dissipate despite the efforts of the Sag Harbor Superintendent of Public Works Dee Yardley, who Mayor Brian Gilbride said worked with fire department volunteers to pump out over four million gallons of water by Wednesday morning. While Long Island Avenue was cleared, said Mayor Gilbride, the back street behind Main Street remained flooded.

“We are catching up and the water is going down,” said Mayor Gilbride.

Mayor Gilbride said in an effort to get the rest of Sag Harbor up and running, the village would bring in a handful of tree companies on Thursday to begin cutting down fallen trees and freeing up power crews to focus specifically on fixing power lines.

As an impromptu Pumpkin Trail became a reality on Main Street, Sag Harbor on Wednesday afternoon — Halloween — with shopkeepers and residents bringing candy into the village for costumed children as many stores remained closed for business, the lights on Main Street were revived. Children could be heard cheering as the lights came on, reported one resident.

“As tough as this has been, and I understand many people are still without power, after talking with [Congressman] Tim Bishop, East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson and Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, I think we have really dodged a bullet compared to the rest of the region,” said Mayor Gilbride on Wednesday. “A lot of that has to do with our volunteers, who have been working for two days to get us through this.”

LIPA: Power Outages Could Last Weeks

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By Kathryn G. Menu; Photography by Michael Heller

The Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) warned East End residents on Wednesday that while it predicted power would be fully restored to nearly a million customers left in the dark after Hurricane Sandy pummeled the New York metropolitan area on Monday, it could, in fact, be weeks before power is fully restored to the island.

As of Wednesday morning, Main Street, Sag Harbor remained dark, the Municipal Building alone lit with the power of a generator.

Large swaths of Southampton and East Hampton towns were also left without power.

“To put this in perspective, once the storm left, it left us with almost a million LIPA customers without power,” said LIPA spokesman Mark Gross. “Last year, with Hurricane Irene, we had about 500,000 customers without power and unlike Irene, Sandy impacted us for two-and-a-half days and really pounded our system.”

Gross said right now LIPA was in the assessment phase, locating damaged transmission lines, substations and neighborhoods. Restoration of transmission lines, the “backbone” of the energy grid, said Gross, is the first step LIPA takes in a massive outage of this nature, and after that crews get to work restoring substations before going into neighborhoods.

Emergency care and service facilities, like hospitals and firehouses are prioritized, said Gross, and as crews are out in the field any restoration that can occur is completed. Priorities are given to the largest areas affected, added Gross.

“We did say seven to 10 days originally, but this storm was worse than anyone could have predicted,” said Gross. “Customers should be prepared to wait a little longer than that.”

LIPA is bringing in crews from across the country, said Gross, and already has crews from Michigan, Iowa and even as far as California.

As of Wednesday morning at 10:15 a.m., a total of 866,070 LIPA customers remained without power. In Suffolk County, 406,141 were without power.

In Southampton Town, 34,368 residents were without electricity and in East Hampton 18,160 remained in the dark. Those numbers included, 1,611 Sag Harbor LIPA customers without power, 3,582 in Bridgehampton, 431 in North Haven, 1,130 in North Sea, 512 in Noyac and 1,183 on Shelter Island.

“A workforce of more than 5,000 strong is working around the clock and will continue to do so until everybody has power,” said LIPA in a statement issued Wednesday morning.

“Safety should still be your highest priority,” continued the statement. “Assume any downed wire is a live electric wire. Stay away from it and report it to LIPA immediately, anytime at 1-800-490-0075.”

 

As August Approaches, Towns Host Hurricane Preparedness Seminar

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By Amanda Wyatt

As hurricane season nears, elected officials on the East End are joining forces with the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) to better prepare residents for whatever wicked weather may come our way.

Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr., Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson and Shelter Island Town Supervisor Jim Dougherty are all slated to join LIPA’s Chief Operating Officer, Michael Hervey, at the upcoming East End Hurricane Preparedness Seminar.

The event, which is scheduled for Thursday, July 26 at 6 p.m., will take place at the Hampton Library in Bridgehampton.

“I think based on last year’s experience with Tropical Storm Irene, there’s room for improvement in our response to hurricanes and tropical storms,” Thiele said in an interview. “And that’s why I’ve joined together with the East End towns and LIPA to present this seminar.”

“One of the purposes of this meeting, from my perspective, is to hear what LIPA has done to upgrade and improve their storm response plan,” admitted Thiele. “I thought last year that their communication with the public was somewhat lacking.”

Thiele went on to say it would help “demonstrate, particularly in LIPA’s case, what lessons were learned through the failures that occurred last year.”

Last August, the East End was battered by the outer bands of Tropical Storm Irene, which was downgraded from hurricane strength just prior to coming ashore. Long Island dodged a bullet in the form of the flooding which destroyed whole communities in upstate New York. However, in the aftermath of Irene, many residents across Suffolk County were left without power, some for well over a week.

“It was very difficult even for elected officials to get information about what LIPA was doing during the response to the storm,” said Thiele. “I think the linemen and the personnel who were on the ground fixing the power lines did a good job.”

In an interview, Supervisor Wilkinson said LIPA has been working to correct past communication issues.

“Mike Hervey had several meetings and briefings both up the island and locally to ensure that the troops on the ground are getting the appropriate direction from the command structure,” said Wilkinson.

“LIPA continues to identify and implement new measures to improve our storm communications and restoration procedures — such as our mobile web site and texting service to report and receive outage information from handheld devices — as well as enhanced coordination with municipalities on tree and debris removal,” said Hervey in a press release issued last week.

“In addition, I encourage residents to start preparing now to reduce the effects of any natural disaster and plan for a multi-day outage,” added Hervey. “This includes planning a hurricane route, preparing an emergency kit, and making sure you are able to stay connected to the latest weather reports and emergency broadcast.”

While LIPA has worked on its own preparedness initiatives, so have local governments. According to Supervisor Wilkinson, East Hampton has “gone through rather extensive incident command training in the past year.”

He said East Hampton works essentially “as one unit under the Emergency Operations Center.” The police department, parks and highway division, human service department, marine patrol, and even volunteer ocean rescue are all involved in hurricane preparedness.

Wilkinson mentioned the town had purchased new generators for backup power, just in case there are any issues with existing generators.

“As we get closer and closer to August with the water being as warm as it is, we have to be especially diligent this year,” he said.

“Preparation is essential to our ability to manage the impacts of major storm events,” added Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst in the press release issued announcing the event.  “As we were reminded by Tropical Storm Irene last fall, our area is prone to power outages during high wind events.”

According to Thiele, representatives at the seminar will discuss how the towns work with their fire departments, ambulance services and police departments in preparing for emergencies.

“It will be an opportunity for the towns to get out the information early, before a storm, about how they would address some of these emergencies,” he explained.

Thiele added the seminar would help people create an information package in preparation for tropical storms or hurricanes.

“I think it’s important that one way or another people get information and have their own individual plans, depending on where you live,” said Thiele. “It’s important each individual household know what they’re going to do in case of a storm, if the power goes out.”

“We’re working together on an intergovernmental basis to get people as much information as they can,” added Thiele. “There will certainly be a lot of useful information for people to incorporate in their own plans.”

Wilkinson agreed, saying it was important “continue to prepare and continue to share information, and to keep it fresh, keep it topical, and keep it in front of the public’s eyes.”

“I don’t think there’s a time, especially when you deal with hurricanes, that you can be over-prepared and you can over-communicate,” said Wilkinson.

Hurricane Preparedness Seminar Announced for July

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East Hampton, Shelter Island and Southampton towns have joined New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and the Long Island Power Authority in hosting an East End Hurricane Preparedness seminar on Thursday, July 26 at 6 p.m. at the Hampton Library in Bridgehampton.

“Preparation is essential to our ability to manage the impacts of storm events,” said Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst. “As we were reminded by  Tropical Storm Irene last fall, our area is prone to power outages during high wind events. LIPA has worked hard to improve its ability to respond to outages and to better communicate with residents and municipal emergency managers during these stressful times. We are pleased to offer this forum as an opportunity to keep residents informed about the progress LIPA has made, the communication tools that will be available to them and to review how best to prepare for the possibility of future outages.”

LIPA Chief Operating Officer Michael Hervey added that anyone dependent on electricity for emergency medical and life-support equipment should register with LIPA’s Critical Care Program, so they can receive regular updates on scheduled outages or severe weather allowing them to make advanced preparations. To enroll or obtain more information on Critical Care call 1-800-490-0025 or visit

http://www.lipower.org/residential/custserv/services-care.html.

For more information or to register for the July 26th Hurricane Preparedness Seminar, please contact Assemblyman Fred Thiele’s District Office at 537-2583.


Bridgehampton Company Eyes Monopole

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web Bridgehampton Monopole

By Claire Walla


Amongst the usual array of residential subdivisions and commercial change-of-use applications, last week the Southampton Town planning board saw this word: monopole.

At its regular meeting last Thursday, January 12, the planning board agenda included a site plan application submitted by a company called Elite Towers, LLC, in conjunction with cellular provider AT&T. The plan proposes putting a 120-foot high cell tower (known as a monopole because all antennae are contained inside the structure) on a piece of property near Foster Avenue in Bridgehampton.

The area in question encompasses 16,213 square feet close to the railroad tracks, just off Butter Lane. It also sits in a commercial district that’s currently home to an auto service and repair facility, an interior design studio, and a steel and welding company.

According to town documents, the land is owned by a company called Hampton Terminal, LLC, based in Patchogue. The property already has an 874-square foot building, which, according to the site plan, would be used to house equipment associated with the cell tower. Both Elite Towers and New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC (otherwise known as AT&T) did not return calls for comment.

According to Southampton Town Planner Claire Vail, any proposed monopole would have to be governed by certain setbacks. In a residential zone, a tower must not exceed any height equal to or greater than 100 percent of the distance between it and the closest residential building. (In other words, if a pole happens to be 100 feet away from the closest house, it may not exceed 100 feet.) For commercial districts, Vail added, that threshold is 300 percent.

The applicants for this particular application, she said, “don’t even seem to meet this setback.” While the closest residence is technically 551 feet away from the location of the proposed pole, there are commercial buildings well within 120 feet.

Currently, the site location is considered by the town to be an Aquifer Protection Overlay District. Vail explained that this is means it is recognized by the town of Southampton as being an area of recharge for groundwater. Basically, Vail continued, “it’s an area of avoidance.”

However, Vail continued to say that the border for the “Aquifer Protection Overlay District” is not so clearly defined. And there’s also the fact that this land has already seen some construction.

“It’s a site that’s already been disturbed,” she clarified.

Vail said the last monopole application pertaining to a site in Bridgehampton was approved back in 2002. The 120-foot pole, owned by LIPA, that now sits just off Montauk Highway would have had to abide by similar commercial and residential zone setbacks, however this piece of property already contained three poles.

“We have a provision in our code that allows you to replace a pole in kind and in place if it’s within 10 feet [of its original size],” Vail explained. Even though the proposed tower ended up being 20 feet higher than the original, Vail said the planning board gave LIPA a waiver for the project, compromising on the height in exchange for LIPA agreeing to move the tower further away from Montauk Highway.

“It was a very long process… and neighbors complained,” Vail recollected. But, she said the town was satisfied with the compromise. “It’s always a give and take with these things.”

At this point Vail said the site plan for Foster Avenue has not yet been fully vetted. Last week, the board passed a resolution to hold a pre-submission conference on the application, which is currently slated for its next meeting on Thursday, February 9.

Shinning A Night On LIPA

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By Carl Grossman

Finally, a bill to provide more light on the Long Island Power Authority has been passed—and unanimously—by the Suffolk County Legislature. LIPA had lobbied lawmakers not to support the effort by Legislator Edward Romaine to form a Long Island Power Oversight Committee. But, in the end, with the exception of one legislator who is with a law firm that represents LIPA, the other 17 members of the legislature stood up to LIPA.

The measure is now before County Executive Steve Levy who says he will “not oppose LIPA, meanwhile, is complaining about passage of the legislation saying it would create “another level of government.”

Meanwhile, State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. Sag Harbor, who has long fought for election of members of LIPA’s board of trustees, said last week that “the common theme here is the need for increased oversight and transparency regarding LIPA. Ed Romaine’s bill does the best that can be accomplished on the county level.”

But, said Mr. Thiele, “we will not have full accountability of LIPA until the trustees are elected by the people they are supposed to serve.” Now, “I would describe it as Long Island’s public electric company being operated by political insiders responsible to Albany politicians.” Mr. Thiele said he will be re-introducing his bill next year to end having LIPA board members appointed by the governor and the two leaders of the State Legislature, and instead having them selected through election by Long Islanders.

The 17-0 vote on the Romaine bill at a legislative session December 7 came after a discussion in which Mr. Romaine stated: “LIPA lacks any oversight by anyone.” Moreover, it was supposed to have an elected board. “That promise was not fulfilled.”

“We need some independent body to start examining what LIPA is doing,” said Mr. Romaine of Center Moriches. “They don’t have [state] Public Service Commission oversight…
There is no one they report to. There is no one that checks into any of its activities.”
As an example of why this is needed, he noted how LIPA “pushed several years ago” for a “Green Choice Program…For a little extra in your rate structure they would buy green power….Many of the East End towns decided to buy into that program. And then one day I got a call from the supervisor of Shelter Island, at that time Mr. [Al] Kilb, and he said, ‘Ed, we buy 100% green power, Green Choice power. I have a contract for windmills…Can you tell me why I’m paying a fuel adjustment charge if I’m buying 100% green power?’ Declared Mr. Romaine:

“That’s because LIPA didn’t buy green power; they just charged a higher rate and said they did.”

“There’s a lot of good LIPA does and I don’t deny that,” said Mr. Romaine, “but I believe that a public authority requires some oversight. This is a vote for us to begin even the most minimal oversight. And those who would deny even the most minimal oversight are not benefitting the ratepayers of LIPA.”

Legislator Lou D’Amaro of Huntington Station said “I appreciate the goal here…Oversight is probably a good thing when it comes to the high energy rates that we’re paying here in Suffolk County and on Long Island. But I also am just wondering whether or not we have…the expertise and the financial wherewithal to conduct effective oversight.”

Mr. Romaine responded to Mr. D’Amaro: “I believe it’s a step one in a multi-step process. And I also believe, as I’m sure you understand as an attorney, that the powers of this legislature are considerable, and I’m sure cooperation will be assured one way or the other.”
When the vote came, Mr. D’Amaro recused himself noting he is with Rivkin Radler, a Uniondale law firm that represents LIPA.

The panel to be established would have six unpaid members chosen by the legislature: two experts in energy matters and two in utility operations; one specifically familiar with LIPA; and one representing a civic group. It would hold four public hearings in 2011 and issue a report.

“We’re sending a signal that we’re going to be far more deeply involved in the operations of LIPA,” said Mr. Romaine. That needs to happen, along with, indeed, a “multi-step” program of oversight of the utility—and the election of those who run it.

LIPA Needs Original Vision

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 By Karl Grossman

            It’s been a couple of weeks of mixed moves at the Long Island Power Authority—mirroring the mixed record of Kevin Law over his three years at LIPA’s helm. Mr. Law this week left his positions as president and chief executive officer of LIPA to become president of the Long Island Association, an islandwide chamber of commerce.

Under Mr. Law there’s been inconsistency at LIPA. For example, a first act upon replacing long-time consumer activist Richard Kessel as LIPA head was to scuttle a plan Mr. Kessel championed for wind turbines off the south shore. Long Island would have been replicating the success of Europe with wind turbines. Mr. Law, a lawyer, cited financial reasons for the cancellation. Yet last month, as he prepared to leave LIPA, he called for wind turbines off the south shore in a project five times as large as the one cancelled.

Similarly, last week, with PR pomp, Mr. Law and LIPA celebrated the completion of a 180-panel photovoltaic system at Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue. It was described in a press release as the “largest LIPA-rebated ground mounted solar system on Long Island.” Other bigger photovoltaic systems that have received LIPA support are on rooftops.

Mr. Law declared: “The use of solar and wind on the East End continues to thrive under LIPA’s renewable energy rebate program helping us to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, assisting customers in lowering their energy bills, and creating high energy jobs right here on Long Island.”

Nice words. But the week before LIPA announced the fifth reduction this year in the rebate it has been providing for solar photovoltaic systems—down to $1.75 per watt. It had been $3.50 on December 31st.  LIPA gave reasons including “continued federal, state and local tax incentives” and the “declining cost of installation”— the cost of solar panels has been dropping because of manufacturing and technological improvements and economy of scale as more panels are installed.

Still, the spread of solar photovoltaic energy is key to Long Island having an independent and non-polluting energy supply. A full commitment to clean, safe, sustainable energy must be a top priority for LIPA—indeed, this was integral to LIPA’s mission in the law creating it in 1985.

Also integral was LIPA having an elected board of trustees. That way, believed those who fought for LIPA’s founding, Long Islanders would be able to chart their own energy future. After the push by the Long Island Lighting Company to build seven to 11 nuclear power plants  (the now gutted Shoreham plant to be the first), this was deemed highly important. LIPA was established mainly as a way to stop LILCO’s nuclear scheme. This it did.

Mr. Law has been steadfast in his opposition to an elected LIPA board, backing a board appointed by the governor, State Assembly speaker and Senate majority leader (Albany’s “three-men-in-a room”).

“We were always in favor of an elected board,” commented Maurice Barbash last week. ‘

Mr. Barbash was chairman of Citizens to Replace LILCO, the organization that led the effort to form LIPA. He blames ex-Governor Mario Cuomo for “screwing up” both how LIPA would take over LILCO and then postponing elections to the LIPA board. Mr. Cuomo’s successor, Governor George Pataki, then eliminated having an elected LIPA board.

What’s next for LIPA?  LIPA Chairman Howard Steinberg has no energy background. His LIPA biography describes him as a lawyer whose “practice focuses on mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance and securities matters.” He was appointed by Governor Pataki after being chairman of the New York State Thruway Authority. The LIPA board last week named Michael Hervey, LIPA senior vice president of operations, to temporarily replace Mr. Law.

A bill providing for restoration of having an elected LIPA board, co-sponsored by State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. of Sag Harbor again passed the Assembly in June. The Senate again did not vote on it. What’s its problem? LIPA desperately needs to return to its original vision with a board elected by Long Islanders which with consistency will champion and implement having safe, clean energy here.