LIPA Commission Approves Draft Report

On April 17, 2023, the LIPA Commission released and approved its detailed action plan for the transition of LIPA from a public-private model to a fully public power model.

It is the culmination of analyses of thousands of pages of financial and operational data; studies of LIPA’s shortcomings, failures, and options for reform; interviews with officials from LIPA, PSEGLI, the Department of Public Service, and IBEW Local 1049 (this is the labor union whose approximately 1,500 members actually operate the electric grid); and input from the five public hearings, with testimony from ratepayers, stakeholders, experts, academics, advocates, and elected officials at all levels of government.

The draft report found public power will save ratepayers between nearly $50 million and $80 million annually. This savings can be used to mitigate future rate increases, upgrade infrastructure, invest in climate-friendly green initiatives, or support struggling residents and businesses. The more accountable, transparent, and streamlined LIPA as proposed will improve system reliability, storm response operations, long term energy planning, and consideration for the interests of marginalized communities.

The draft report found that public power does not reduce LIPA’s tax and PILOT payments to local governments, or its obligations to its bond holders. It lays out options for keeping the grid’s day-to-day workforce as private-sector union employees, and for enhancing LIPA’s governance through either an appointed or elected board. See the full report here.

The public comment period on the draft report has opened. However, the public hearings scheduled for April 19, 20 and 21 were postponed because the state budget had not passed. The public hearings will be rescheduled, most likely during the weeks of May 8 and May 17.

Meanwhile, the LIPA Advisory Committee met Friday, April 28, to discuss the draft report. The most concerning issue was that of governance, since a fully elected Board poses many complications regarding elections. A locally appointed Board is most likely. Appointments to the Community Board were also discussed.

After the hearings are complete, a final report will be submitted to the legislature. Legislation to turn the plans in the report into a bill or bills is ongoing. On completion they will be submitted to the Assembly and Senate and hopefully passed during this current legislative session.