PUBLIC HEARING ON LIPA’s STORM RESPONSE
Senator Carl L. Marcellino Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Investigations and Government Operations was joined by Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. a member of the Senate's Energy & Telecommunications Committee, Senator Owen H. Johnson, Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, Senator John J. Flanagan and Senator Jack M. Martins at a public hearing to look at strategies and policies that govern Long Island Power Authority’s (LIPA) storm preparation and restoration, and to examine the industry standards, best practices and post-event analysis of the utility.
“LIPA’s preparedness systems were definitely put to the test. They fell short. While I commend our emergency responders and law enforcement officials for working hard to meet the needs of Long Islanders, it is clear that we must take a closer look at LIPA’s response and determine if they are truly prepared for a major hurricane. We have had more than enough opportunities to prepare and practice for a big storm, so we are asking these experts what went wrong,” said Senator Marcellino.
"Given the rates we pay, Long Islanders have every right to expect far better service from LIPA than what we got following Hurricane Irene. LIPA's response had some serious shortcomings, including a glaring lack of communication with its ratepayers, which must be addressed. Reviewing LIPA's storm response will help improve service to ratepayers and ensure that LIPA is better prepared to handle these situations in the future," said Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. (R-Merrick), a member of the Senate's Energy & Telecommunications Committee.
“It is important for the New York State Senate’s Investigations and Government Operations Committee to hold a public hearing on LIPA’s storm response," Senator Owen H. Johnson said. "We will all benefit from a review of the actions taken after the storm so that we can be better prepared for the next hurricane. Moving forward, we will use this opportunity to learn critical lessons that will help guide us in making decisions for our future.”
"While the performance of repair crews was superb," Senator Kenneth P. LaValle said, "LIPA's management failed to effectively marshal its resources and communicate with elected officials and its customers. The end result was and is continued frustration with LIPA's management and leadership. LIPA can and must do better."
“The residents of Long Island must know that any improvements necessary to better equip our vital infrastructure for future emergency situations are being fully examined and quickly implemented. That is why a constructive examination of LIPA’s response to recent challenges our region faced is critical and should be welcomed by all. By doing so openly, this hearing will provide the residents of Long Island and the hardworking men and women at LIPA, who oftentimes undertake the restoration of electricity and power in dangerous conditions, with a clearer voice in the process,” said Senator John J. Flanagan
"What I don’t understand is how in an age of technology that can deliver up-to-the second information about virtually anything and everything from around the world, LIPA couldn’t find a way to occasionally communicate with half a million customers, right here at home. It was bad for most of us but it was worse for seniors and the homebound. The idea that LIPA can now just walk away from us without answering for this fiasco is unacceptable. This time around they were worse than unresponsive. To make sure LIPA gets it right we must analyze what went wrong," said Senator Jack Martins
Testifying at the hearing were Michael D. Hervey, Chief Operating Officer, Long Island Power Authority; John Bruckner, President, Long Island Electric Transmission & Distribution Services for National Grid; Edward Mangano, Nassau County Executive; Mark Weiss, Mayor, Village of Hewlett Harbor; James Altadonna, Mayor, Village of Massapequa Park; Mark Gelish, Huntington business owner; and James Brown, Business Representative, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1049.
Hurricane Irene was downgraded to a Tropical Storm as it made landfall in the Coney Island Area of Brooklyn at approximately 9 a.m. on August 28, 2011. Tropical Storm Irene was the third largest storm event in Long Island’s modern history. It is estimated that the storm restoration and cleanup cost LIPA $176 million.
LIPA is the public face of electric power for most of Long Island and employs about 125 people. Although LIPA makes major decisions and is widely perceived as the local electric utility, it outsources operations to National Grid from billing to running the electric grid and storm restoration.