NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The Public Service Enterprise Group, operator of New Jersey’s largest utility in the Public Service Electric and Gas Company, said it wants to hit the ground running when it takes over for the troubled Long Island Power Authority on Jan. 1.
New PSEG Long Island President David Daly sat down exclusively Tuesday with CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan, pledging he will handle storms better and be accountable to taxpayers.
First with the Long Island Power Company, then LIPA, frustrated and angry Long Islanders have short memories. The final straw was the response by LIPA to Superstorm Sandy.
Amid furious remarks by Long Island residents even Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not mince words about the Long Island Power Authority’s handling of Sandy and the snowstorm that followed. Some customers were left in the dark for weeks after Sandy.
“I believe the system is archaic and is obsolete,” the governor said about LIPA last year. “The management has failed the consumers.”
The Newark-based PSEG won a 12-year, $5 billion contract to take over LIPA, and Daly said the utility has learned from LIPA’s mistakes.
“We’re checking every area to make sure the punch list is ready to go, and that we are hitting the ground running on day one,” Daly said.
With only about two weeks left until the takeover, Daly is on the hot seat. But he said he has solutions.
“We are going to freeze rates here for 3 years; continue to maintain outstanding levels of electrical reliability,” Daly said. “Keeping the lights on is very, very important to us, as is to improve the storm restoration process.”
But residents do not only want their lights on. They have also demanded billing transparency and good customer service and a modern grid. During Sandy, restoration was stalled, as LIPA was awash in antique paper maps.
“We are bringing in a very experienced team — battle tested during Sandy and Irene,” Daly said.
But in the past few weeks, PSE&G has had its own problems in New Jersey. It has suffered three major blackouts – the most recent one on Monday afternoon.
But when asked about any doubts that LIPA-weary Long Island customers may have as a result, Daly said, “We are very proud of our record of reliability.”
Daly added that there are several specific improvements to Long Island service that PSEG has planned.
He said they will start with accelerated tree-trimming to clear distribution lines, improved communication, new automated phones, and modern technologies to dispatch and track crews.
“We are very, very happy and excited to get started,” Daly said. “We are asking for a chance.”
When PSEG takes over, skeptics said the longer-term problem will be the politics and burden of $1 billion LIPA contracts, that PSEG must assume for decades.
Statistics showed during Sandy, PSEG restored twice the number of outages as LIPA did, and four days faster. PSEG had about half the workforce, and fixed the outages at a third of the price.
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