Comptroller rips LIPA for PSEG Isaias response

Mark Harrington

Newsday

Aug 27, 2020

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has expressed “serious issues” about LIPA’s ability to provide oversight of PSEG Long Island in the wake of the utility’s disastrous response to Tropical Storm Isaias.

In a letter sent to LIPA chief executive Tom Falcone Tuesday and obtained by Newsday, DiNapoli cited ratepayers' unsuccessful attempts to call in outages to PSEG, including emergencies with downed power lines, and said LIPA customers “may question whether the storm response failures during and after Isaias were anomalous or a warning of what may lie ahead as severe and less predictable storms become more common."

DiNapoli was making a reference to PSEG Long Island president Dan Eichhorn’s statement earlier this month that the company’s poor performance in responding to customers during the storm was “an anomaly.”

State Assemb. Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), in advance of state hearings last week, said he was considering legislation that would restore the comptroller’s role in oversight of LIPA, including in audits and other matters. Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) said he is working on a companion bill in the Senate.

That authority was removed with the 2013 enactment of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s LIPA Reform Act, which gave the state Department of Public Service “review and recommend” oversight of PSEG. LIPA’s board has the ultimate authority in passing rate hikes and other matters.

“When my office approved the initial [PSEG contract] in 2012, we noted that LIPA needed to remain responsible for oversight of the services provided by PSEG and that key guidance documents, including storm and emergency plans, must still be developed, refined, and adopted during the transition period, and in some cases, annually for the term of the contract,” DiNapoli wrote.

But a later version of the contract that gave PSEG a bigger role eliminated the comptroller's role in reviewing and approving the agreement. DiNapoli noted that at the time, his office raised “many concerns” about the loss of oversight.