- Suffolk County Legislator Ed Romaine
held a news conference to discuss the pending vote by the County Legislature to create a Long Island Power Authority
The committee, to be created pursuant to Local Law No. 36-1999, will look at LIPA
's rates - specifically its standard rates, variable rates, and peak/off-peak rates - contracts, practices, and disaster and storm response policies to determine if the agency is working in the best interests of the Suffolk County ratepayers.
"Many Suffolk ratepayers are in the dark regarding the operation of LIPA and the historic lack of transparency and disclosure by LIPA is troubling," said Romaine. As legislators, we have a statutory responsibility to provide oversight. This committee will fill a void that has existed far too long."
LIPA operates virtually unregulated. The board of trustees is appointed by the governor and state legislative leaders, and the Public Service Commission has limited jurisdiction. LIPA has often added additional surcharges to electric bills instead of increasing rates to skirt oversight requirements.
The so-called "Green Choice" program provides ratepayers the opportunity to support renewable resources. Customers are led to believe the additional charge provides them with green power. Instead, they are merely paying for "attributes" to promote green energy and are not receiving green power.
Moreover, it was discovered LIPA actually has three different rate plans; plans that could save many customers money on their bills. However, these alternate rate plans are not disclosed to customers inquiring about rates.
And recently concerns were raised after LIPA's poor response to severe storms last March that left thousands without electricity for days; the decision to reduce funding for their solar power program; and the hefty $30 million incurred for standby costs preceding Hurricane Earl.
The committee will consists of six members: a person familiar with the operations of LIPA, who will be selected by the Presiding Officer, two experts in the operation of electric utility companies, two energy experts, and a member of a civic organization who will be selected by the County Legislature through a subsequent resolution.
Four public hearings will be held, two on the west end and two on the East End, and a written report will be issued by the end of 2011.
If adopted, the legislation will go to the County Executive for his signature or veto.