Uniondale (WALK) - 15 years after LIPA was created to take over Long Island's power system, the experiment is over.
Governor Andrew Cuomo was in Uniondale yesterday to sign legislation that all but dissolves LIPA and officially hands control of the Island's electric grid to PSEG, the privately-held utility based in New Jersey. The takeover goes into effect as of January 1, 2014.
Cuomo was the first to propose removing LIPA after its widely criticized response to superstorm Sandy.
"The legislation that was signed into law today ends LIPA as we know it, and creates a new utility system that puts Long Island ratepayers first,” Cuomo said. “LIPA has offered lackluster service for too long and after its failure to perform during superstorm Sandy, it was clear we needed a change."
The irony of the fall of LIPA is not lost on critics, some of whom complain that the legislation to remove LIPA was rushed through the approval process, without enough transparency. LIPA was originally created to replace LILCO, a profit-driven private company, and give ratepayers more control over Long Island's electric system. LILCO was widely criticized for things like high electric rates and poor disaster response. LIPA is criticized for many of the same issues today.
The measure signed yesterday by Governor Cuomo gives near total control of the local electric grid to PSEG, along with budgeting decisions. A new Long Island branch of the state Department of Public Service will act as oversight and field customer complaints. LIPA will be reduced to a holding company with around 20 employees, responsible for managing the debt linked to the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant. LILCO shuttered the plant before it opened, and LIPA inherited that debt during its takeover 15 years ago.