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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?”

Kevin B November 17, 2012 at 09:16 PM
if the trees are on the curb strip, it is the homeowners responsibility in most cases. A maximum 30 year life span for any tree, should then be removed and if necessary a new one planted.
Kevin B November 17, 2012 at 10:05 PM
Don't know what Township you live in Nassau Taxpayer, but in the Town of Hempstead, you need to get a permit and pay a fee to have one removed by the Town, or get a permit and pay a tree removal company yourself, in addition to trimming existing ones properly. Check the Town Code.
Michael Scarn November 17, 2012 at 11:24 PM
LIPA has done complete patch jobs to get people their power back after 2 weeks. In my neighborhood we were out for over 13 days bc of a tree that took down a pole. On the 13 day, after being told by the out of town crew that they had no poles, the screwed a 2x4 to the pole and attached wires to that. On nearby Carman Ave., a tree took down a pole and they reattached the wires to the half a pole leaving a quarter of it dangling. If you reach up you can touch the wires. How long is it going to take them to make permanet repairs? I was told weeks. Truly a pathetic respone to the storm. Once the out-of-town crew arrived on scene we had power back 24 hours later. This could have been accomplished much sooner. Instead we were forced to abandon our cold, dark houses and live like refugees on a day to day basis for nearly 2 weeks. Shameful considering what we pay.
Florence Trunk November 18, 2012 at 03:39 AM
If the power lines were buried underground the trees wouldn't be entangled in them, therefore, not pulling them down. Also, just imagine how beautiful our neighborhoods would look without all those poles & wires blotting the landscape. Again, I would like to say a big "Thank You" to all the crews that are working so hard to bring us back to civilization. A prayer for your safety with each light turned on. Stay safe!
Bojames November 18, 2012 at 08:39 AM
No electricity puts things in perspective, no?
Bojames November 18, 2012 at 08:40 AM
Buried power lines did not save lower Manhattan from power loss.
Sean Hassett November 18, 2012 at 04:15 PM
Until the power lines are buried, it's just a matter of time before this happens again. I do not mind paying a bit more for a more reliable power supply, but what I really want is value for money. I don't want to keep paying the current rates for the same antiquated system that is prone to storm damage and looks ugly. We need either a new provider or else the same provider with a new board, new management team and new vision. There is no doubt that we will be lashed again by future storms. If the power supply is left exposed to the elements, then outages will be unavoidable.
S.M. November 18, 2012 at 07:49 PM
Pathetic solution. Just start over
George Mulligan November 18, 2012 at 08:33 PM
What to you is a "bit" more?. Based on the cost of the project it could be signifcant dollars per month added to your bill. Is $50.00 per month, $75.00 or $100.00 a "bit more?" I was out of power five days in the last four years. I am not interested in paying more money for a project that will just add more dollars to the cost of living on LI. And chances are it will not be completed in my lifetime. I have also checked my current bill vs. old bills and LIPA is not that expensive. My cost for electricity is about $1800.00 per year. I consider that reasonable when I look at what i pay for cable TV, phone and internet.
Kevin B November 18, 2012 at 10:07 PM
You might want to check with your neighbors in Levittown about those buried power lines. There were people there that went significant periods of time without power, due to trouble locating the problem.
Simba November 19, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Keep this in mind, Germany experiences 20 minutes of outages on average per year. Why, because they are committed to doing everything the right way. They are willing to pay for the best, because they know it will simply outperform the rest and in the long run be cheaper to maintain, so overall costs are probably close to the same with much less aggravation to the consumer.
Frank November 19, 2012 at 04:02 PM
Or dietitians
Frank November 19, 2012 at 04:05 PM
@ Kenneth. Please read prior strings: the reason for the monopoly is Shoreham. Long Islanders have to pay the debt which is part of the LIPA bill. the state does not want deregulation as that will dwindle the amount of principal paid to the note holders. the staggering debt will be levied as a tax increase if deregulation happens. Albany has been bleeding LI dry. I am convinced that Albany hates LI, even though it's been a golden calf to its coffers.
Frank November 19, 2012 at 04:06 PM
Why hasn't Suzette Smookler, the dietitian, resigned from the Board of Trustees? She has no business overseeing a utility!
Frank November 19, 2012 at 04:07 PM
I would love for LIers to default on the debt. LIers never wanted the reactor in the first place... it was shoved down their throats. To add insult to injury, they had to pay for LILCO's mistake. @ Nassau I wish they can pull it off!
Frank November 19, 2012 at 04:08 PM
Yes. The board needs more dietitians and disability crusaders. after all, they know what's best for a utility company.
Frank November 19, 2012 at 04:10 PM
@ ArtyMarty. don't forget RVC gets a large portion of Its power from the Hempstead tie in to the NYPA upstate supply.
Frank November 19, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Sorry ArtyMarty. No pound foolish. Suzette Smookler would have no part of any weight gain on her watch! LOL
Irene November 19, 2012 at 04:49 PM
If we still owe 7 billion on Shoreham, hasn't LIPA been making any payments on it? Also, if we deduct the Shoreham portion, then it's lights out again for homeowners. LIPA will just shut off the electric. Hmmmmmmm, just a thought!!!
Irene November 19, 2012 at 04:51 PM
Any trees near any power lines should be cut down and removed, not just trimmed. LIPA trimmed the trees in my neighbor's yard not long ago and they just grew back and surrounded all the wires all over again.
Irene November 19, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Waste of money and manpower but what does LIPA care with the unions involved. LIPA has been lining their pockets for a long time all at the taxpayers/ratepayers expense. Over two weeks without electric and the job took 1/2 an hour to complete.
the big kahuna November 19, 2012 at 06:20 PM
the asplundh guys who do most of this worlk are the worst. butchers they remove limbs in such a way they make the trees top heavy and they fall in bad weather. Last year a group from OHIO told me he had never seen a worse job of wireing in his LIFE., We need a new group to run LIPA fast before the next storm hits.
the big kahuna November 19, 2012 at 06:24 PM
also in most bad weather areas they no longer use wood poles. they use a composite materal which is fiberglass and plastic based so it can bend but not break under extreme condidtons wood doesent work. it breaks
the big kahuna November 19, 2012 at 06:24 PM
you would think someone would know this.
the big kahuna November 19, 2012 at 06:35 PM
oh and by the way the unions need to take some blame in this. they did not help the non union workers who cam from all over the country. what does it take to get rid of this union??
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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