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Thiele wants PSEG oversight

REPORTER FILE PHOTO Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. blasted PSEG today for
Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. blasted PSEG for not being answerable to the public.

Criticizing PSEG operations on Long Island, Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) called  for steps to establish effective checks and balances on the electric utility no matter who manages it.

“Long Island’s electric utility should be operated for the benefit of Long Island, not Albany politicians, Wall Street, or New Jersey stockholders,” Mr. Thiele said. “A shell public authority at LIPA, a State Public Service Department office on Long Island with no teeth, and a New Jersey parent utility company with no New York oversight is not how the interests of Long Island are going to be protected,” he said.

The lack of such meaningful oversight has “plagued” the Long Island Lighting Company, Long Island Power Authority and now PSEG, Mr. Thiele said.

He called for:

• Creation of a state consumer utility advocate to protect consumers’ interests;

• Restoration of oversight that was removed from the state comptroller and attorney general when the LIPA Reform Act was adopted; and

• Implementation of Public Service Commission power to oversee Long Island’s energy future “instead of granting an unregulated monopoly to an out-of-state company.”

When the LIPA Reform Act was passed in 2013, it as “supposed to rescue Long Island” from decades of problems experienced under LILCO and LIPA, the legislator said.

In the year since PSEG started managing the utility for LIPA, skeptics worst concerns have been realized, Mr. Thiele said.

• Rates have increased because of substantial increases in the power supply charge that makes up about 50 percent of customers’ electric bills, he said.

“The power supply charge spiked 81% between September and December, in no way reflecting the actual market price of natural gas,” he said. Ratepayers saw increases in the power supply charge in seven of the last 12 months while LIPA’s management of the power supply charge has made electric bills not only higher, but unpredictable for consumers.

• Debt has increased, most of which is not related to the closing of the Shoreham nuclear operation, but $799 million in new borrowing this year.

• Despite the LIPA Reform Act pledge to increase renewable energy sources, both Southampton and East Hampton have been plagued by the absence of additional renewable power. Instead, both communities have fought controversial plans for  increased transmission lines.

• Consumer satisfaction ratings remain low for PSEG as they were for LIPA.

Jeffrey Weir, PSEG’s spokesman, declined comment.

Mr. Weir did comment on a power outage that affected 2,747 customers on Shelter Island Sunday morning. Power went down  at 6:50 a.m. when an insulator failed on Winthrop road affecting a primary line.

While in most cases, such failures are handled automatically, this one required a crew to come to Shelter Island to make repairs, Mr. Weir said. He described it as the first main switch feeding Shelter Island from the north. Workers arrived here at 7:46 a.m. and restored power to most of those customers affected within an hour, Mr. Weir said. All were back on line by 8:53 a.m., he said.

Sunday’s outage has no relation to the project to either put in additional cables linking the Island to the North Fork or construct a substation on the Island, he said. PSEG is still exploring options, he added, promising to keep Islanders informed.

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