Power Authority At Odds With FEMA Over Reimbursement

NEW YORK (CBS 2/1010 WINS/ WCBS 880) — The Long Island Power Authority was more than ready when Hurricane Earl breezed past Long Island last week. However, the utility’s customers might have to pick up the tab.

LISTEN: WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs reports
LISTEN: 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera reports

LIPA — following the National Weather Service forecast — brought in 1,600 out-of-state crews to staging areas with tons of equipment to work alongside 500 of its own tree trimmers and linemen from Thursday to Saturday in anticipation of massive power outages.

Photo Gallery: Earl Moves Through Tri-State

LIPA spent $68 million in March, $15.2 million in June, $30 million on Earl last week and $43 million on other 2010 storms for a total of $156 million. So far, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has reimbursed just $54 million.

That still leaves quite a gap.

“We want the protection, but maybe they went overboard, and we don’t want to get stuck with the bills,” said Port Washington customer Amanda Ptaschnik.

Earl’s $30 million expense may not be federally reimubursable, but Congressman Steve Israel (D-Long Island) said he’s hopeful.

“LIPA can blame FEMA; FEMA can blame LIPA. But at the end of the day ratepayers shouldn’t be punished with the bill. So we are going to work with FEMA and make case that LIPA actually prepared,” Israel said.

Many customers are incensed.

“Ah, that’s not fair at all, that we have to pay for something that didn’t even happen,” customer Joseph Molina told CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan.

“Horrible! All that money wasted for nothing,” Keith, from Hicksville, said.

“So we’re getting robbed again,” one man said. “That’s just typical LIPA. So when the storm is bad again, we have to pay again, double? It doesn’t make sense.”

LIPA’s acting chief Michael Hervey insists no decision has been made.

“In fact, we’re doing everything that we possibly can to keep it from impacting our customers,” Hervey told 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera.

Added LIPA spokeswoman Vanessa Baird-Streeter: “We don’t believe we are going to have to be in that position to raise rates in 2010 for our customers. I don’t think we have any apologies. I think our customers want us to be prepared. And our customers want us to be able to restore power in the most expeditious manner.”

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