News

Sandy Ineptitude Catches Up With LIPA At Moreland Commission Hearing

County Executives, Officials From Nassau, Suffolk Tear Into Beleaguered Utility
A lineman from California works to restore power in Long Beach following Sandy - Nov. 20, 2012 (credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

A lineman from California works to restore power in Long Beach following Sandy – Nov. 20, 2012 (credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Superstorm Sandy

OLD WESTBURY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Officials slammed the Long Island Power Authority Tuesday for its performance in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, during a hearing by a commission exploring how those utilities might be restructured.

The Moreland Commission on Utility Storm Preparation and Response began its a public hearing Tuesday at 6 p.m. at SUNY College of Old Westbury.

The hearing focused on utilities’ preparedness and response and recommendations for restructuring utilities.

WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reports

As 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon and WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reported, it was the second hearing for the commission, and turnout was far higher than the first.

On Long Island, just about everyone was affected in one way or another by outages.

1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon reports

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and his Suffolk County counterpart, Steve Bellone, were among those who testified. Bellone issued some of the most scathing complaints.

“It was immediately apparent that there had been no advance planning on how to conduct electrical inspections on a massive scale” despite the fact that so many homes were in flood zones, Bellone said.

Bellone stopped talking to people at those high levels, because he said their information was just wrong.

“I sent Suffolk County police to get the facts. For the next three days, I worked directly with the employees of the control centers,” he said.

Nassau County Legislator David Denenberg said LIPA knew restoring power would take time.

“What they didn’t understand was the accurate information; the finger pointing,” he said.

Officials also complained about an information blackout.

“This was, among other things, an epic failure of communication,” said Huntington Town Councilman Mark Cuthbertson.

Cuthbertson was one of many local leaders who had stories of constituents who could not get the information they needed from LIPA. The days of not knowing were the hardest part.

Residents also gave LIPA scathing reviews. Seymour Spiegel said for a 21st century storm, LIPA had been “a 19th century power company.”

“We felt cold, dark and abandoned,” Spiegel said.

The commission was launched earlier this month by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Both Con Edison and the Long Island Power Authority were subpoenaed by the commission to discuss their performance during Sandy, as well as the other major storms that have hit the state in the past two years – Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.

The commission will review the actions taken by the power companies, and will also be able to make specific recommendations about how to reform and modernize the way New York delivers power to its residents.

Cuomo has been a harsh critic of the power companies – particularly LIPA – in the wake of Sandy. A week after the storm, he accused Con Ed of restoring power to Lower Manhattan in a timely fashion, but blowing other areas off.

The state could take actions “from sanctions to revocation of franchise,” he said.

Cuomo was even harsher toward LIPA a couple of weeks later, suggesting that the power company should be shut down.

According to Newsday, Cuomo also said LIPA “has to end” because it “hasn’t worked in a long, long time.”

Cuomo also wants the commission to evaluate other utilities serving the New York City and suburban areas, including New York State Electric and Gas Corp. and National Grid, which operates under LIPA.

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has also subpoenaed Con Ed and LIPA for plans and performance records on restoring power, communicating with customers without power and other aspects of the utilities’ responses to the storm.

Another hearing for the Moreland Commission was set for Dec. 20. That hearing will focus specifically on the Long Island Power Authority and National Grid’s storm response.

A location for that hearing has not been announced.

Meanwhile Tuesday night, Cuomo reportedly appointed a new chairman for LIPA Tuesday.

Do you think action should be taken against Con Edison and LIPA? Leave your comments below…

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)