Sunday, July 26, 2015

PSEG | NY State Comptroller Slams PSC on LIPA-PSEG

PSEG's M.O. is to put up huge poles in a hurry, then
say it's so sorry it didn't know about local laws relating
to scarring the landscape. Now it wants a rate increase.
The cover of Friday's Newsday was headlined "NY Comptroller Report: LIPA Reform Hurt Customers".

Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said ratepayers are facing higher bills, less transparency, more debt and less oversight.

DiNapoli's report drew expected responses defending the record of the Long Island Power Authority:
  • The NY Department of Public Service (DPS) said later than day that DiNapoli was "simply wrong", citing a three-year rate freeze and "unprecedented" oversight. DPS said the 2013 reform was a "success".
  • PSEG, which operates LIPA's power delivery, said reliability, storm response, call center and other measures have improved on its watch. 
  • LIPA spokesman Sid Nathan said the Authority had been ordered to bring "the most efficient and lowest-cost service to customers."
Local officials on Long Island sided with DiNapoli:
  • Assemb. Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) applauded the report, calling the DPS idea that the reform was a success "ludicrous". "We are facing a substantial rate increase that Long Islanders can't afford. DPS has ... totally lost public confidence."
  • Brookhaven Supervisor Edward Romaine said he was glad the comptroller focused scrutiny on the LIPA-PSEG rate hike, calling for "an audit from the state comptroller so we get accurate numbers and an independent review".
  • George Maragos, Nassau County's comptroller, agreed with DiNapoli's critique of the PSEG- LIPA contract, including its attempt to stop DiNapoli from scrutinizing contracts. He said: "The agreement between the state and PSEG has to be rethought and more controls put in place."
Jennifer Freeman, a spokeswoman for DiNapoli, said, "We'll let LIPA ratepayers judge whether the latest reforms are working or not."

Comment

When I worked for the NYC Comptroller's Office as Chief Economist in 1992-2006, I testified several times for the Comptroller on behalf of electricity consumers against rate increases for Con Ed and a proposed merger. Our intervention turned out to be on the winning side in all cases. It is good to know that Comptroller DiNapoli is putting the power of his office behind protecting the Long Island consumer of power.

My experience with PSEG on Long Island does not give me confidence that PSEG is being honest with the communities that it has agreed to serve. It has erected huge toxic poles (see photo above) in defiance, or ignorance, of local laws and precedents. Burying the lines would make electric power more storm-resistant and would not mar the landscape or poison the water.

It has a history of claiming not to have known that there were local laws requiring environmental impact statements and local planning filings for new poles, followed by earnest promises that next time it will be more respectful of community laws and regulations.

Communities are faced with the expense of taking down the poles after they have been erected, instead of being offered the option of contributing to burying them, as Southampton agreed to do.