Written comments can be submitted on the LIPA Commission website.
You will need to create a log-in with basic information. The page then gives you the option to upload a document or simply paste your comment into a form. Creating a log-in will also allow you to get email updates about the process. You can use our talking points for support.
The advantage to a written statement is that you have no length limit. It is also good to submit your verbal comments in writing when you testify to help the stenographer get your testimony correct.
Sample Written Testimony
My name is _______, a resident of ________, a (teacher, parent, business owner), and a Long Island Power Authority ratepayer. I am here to say that I support the work of this Commission. The findings of the draft report only reconfirm what many have pointed out for years: Long Island and Rockaway ratepayers will be better off without PSEG. A fully public LIPA will lower rates and provide more transparency and accountability, with more opportunities for local input. Now we must finalize the details to get there. The Commission must introduce legislation in time to pass in the 2024 session.
This Commission is the opportunity to reimagine, reinvent, and restructure LIPA so that it is led by those most impacted by decisions concerning our energy system: ratepayers, union workers, municipalities, community organizations, low-income households, and environmental justice communities. We must ensure that those who use, pay for, and work for the system have a say in how it runs. In order to do that, many things must happen.
We need to transform the Board of Trustees to make it more accountable and diverse. This means restructuring the Board to have more expertise and to better represent ratepayers and their communities. We need to establish an accountable and representative multi-stakeholder Board of Trustees where local voices help determine the composition by appointment. Appointees need to be from the LIPA service territory. Right now all appointments to the LIPA Board are made by the governor and elected state officials with no meaningful input from local communities.
The Board must be multi-stakeholder in terms of both constituencies and expertise. It should be composed of traditional members skilled in management, policy, law, science, engineering, technology, and cybersecurity. It should also consist of workers, customers, and community-based organizations, as well as experts in justice, resilience, and engagement.
LIPA's mission should be expanded to include climate justice, energy democracy, equity, and greater participation by its customers. This is necessary to change the underlying purpose of the utility, which does not currently prioritize these issues.
Across the US, publicly owned utilities employ a range of mechanisms for public engagement, which we can learn from. Some such as the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) have citizen review boards that allow ratepayers to be actively involved in giving feedback on specific policy proposals and/or rate increases. SMUD also has a business advisory board with a focus on racial justice.
Seattle's public utility has a public advisory council that advises on rates and strategic plans. Austin Energy sponsors a regional science festival to invite diverse youth to learn about the energy sector. And one of the most impressive recent examples of engagement occurred in Los Angeles where the Department of Water and Power, as a part of developing its plan to transition to renewables by 2035, did a two-year-long engagement process that had an advisory group dedicated to environmental justice.
With this in mind, a new Community Board must be established to replace the existing Advisory Board so that communities are centered in decision-making for the energy system and that sustained public participation is a function of the utility. LIPA has struggled to engage the public across the many different Towns, Villages, and Cities of Long Island and in the Rockaways. This has fostered disengagement and distrust while perpetuating inequities and vulnerabilities.
The Community Board should be made up of representatives from diverse sectors and backgrounds with proper geographic representation, all from the LIPA service territory, including social justice, environmental, Indigenous Nations, business, labor, local government, economic development, energy, low and fixed income, consumer, civic, and education. These representatives should include those in Disadvantaged Communities in the LIPA service territory as defined by the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. It should also have appropriate regional representation to account for the particular geographic scope of LIPA's service territory. All this must be codified in statute.
The Community Board must play a leading role in engaging communities across the LIPA service territory in determining rate structure, accessing energy programs, implementing renewable energy projects, providing support during outrages and other emergencies, and developing initiatives to help the utility realize its mission. It must be resourced with research support, technical assistance, and a budget to carry out its work.
In order for the Community Board to be properly resourced, it must be supported by an independent Energy Observatory which would be funded by half of the current DPS-LI budget. Every self-directed public utility needs an independent partner institution to help monitor and advise the utility, engage ratepayers, conduct independent research, and support communities in their own efforts for resilience and energy justice.
This is a body, independent from both the utility and the government, that would coordinate the needs of the utility with the needs of the community. Partnered with universities and community-based organizations, it would be a place to meaningfully involve communities within the LIPA service territory and has the potential to empower ratepayers, enhance social justice, and improve the quality of decision-making.
A restructured LIPA must spend more of its revenues for the benefit of our communities. Rather than continue the decades-long habit of spending money on expensive management fees for private corporations, which diverts funds from public use, LIPA can double down on its commitment to invest in Long Island and the Rockaways.
Instead of providing bonuses to unaccountable management and dividends to distant stockholders, LIPA should lower utility rates, especially for low-income households, seniors on fixed incomes, and small businesses; reinvest revenues to enhance resiliency; improve identification of and service to customers with special needs such as those requiring electricity for medical equipment and municipal sewage treatment plants and other services that would otherwise create environmental disasters; support community solar, thermal energy networks, and more wide ranging conservation programs; and seek out public-public partnerships that improve service delivery and community resilience.
LIPA also has the right and ability to fund, build, own, and operate its own renewable energy systems via bond issuances, which should be explored as a part of the democratic buildout of public renewables.
A more equitable rate structure is really vital and a restructured LIPA must do more to uphold NY's goal of tackling the energy burden on low and moderate income (LMI) customers by ensuring they don't spend more than 6% of their monthly income on their energy bills. We should also explore the recent decision by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to end power shut offs for low-income customers who can't pay.
Some things should stay the same, however, unless otherwise requested by the workers. There should be no change to the jobs, salaries, or benefits for the 2,500 ServCo employees. LIPA made, and kept, the same promise when it transitioned from National Grid to PSEG Long Island management in 2014. This dedicated workforce is integral to LIPA's success under any management structure. IBEW Local 1049 has made it clear they do not want to be a public sector union. There are a few pathways to ensuring this outcome that they will determine for themselves. We must support IBEW's position in the transition and stand with the workers who have kept this system running.
This commission was set up to steer Long Island and the Rockaways back on course to the electric utility we need. I urge this commission to stay strong on this path and incorporate the above suggestions to truly reimagine LIPA. These are the reforms needed to build a truly accountable, democratic, renewable and affordable energy system.