Thiele, LaValle want LIPA investigated

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Two state lawmakers have asked the New York State comptroller to investigate the cost of the Long Island Power Authority’s new transmission line between Southampton and Bridgehampton.

LIPA agreed in the spring to bury the entire line if ratepayers in part of Southampton Town paid 45 percent of the cost through a usage-based surcharge known as a visual benefit assessment (VBA) on their utility bills. The project was originally estimated to cost $8 million, but the utility company now estimates it will cost as much as $12 million.

State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle and State Assemblyman Fred Thiele issued a statement this week asking State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli to include the project in his current LIPA audit. The lawmakers are asking the comptroller to determine the total cost of the project and to investigate how much of the extra $4 million can be attributed to the portion of the project that will be paid for by ratepayers.

“LIPA authorized substantial overtime to complete the project,” read the lawmakers’ statement. “It is certain that not all the additional expenditures were to construct only the 45 percent which was the subject of the VBA.”

Mr. Thiele also issued a release this week slamming LIPA for its recently proposed 4.8 percent rate increase. He said that earlier this year, the New York State Legislature passed a law that would require LIPA to provide notice of rate increases of over 2.5 percent to the State Public Service Commission and to provide evidence of the need for an increase in a hearing. Governor David Paterson vetoed that bill on September 4.

Mr. Thiele said that he was stumped by the utility’s need for a rate increase when oil has tumbled from an all-time high price of $147 per barrel in July to lows around $45 this week, particularly when 55 percent of LIPA’s budget is the cost of fuel and purchased power.

“Now it is clear why LIPA fought PSC oversight so vociferously. This rate increase has obviously been in the works for months,” said Mr. Thiele in a release this week. “LIPA will only work for the people when the people can select their LIPA Trustees…. There should be immediate action in Albany to elect the LIPA Trustees.

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