Commission Hears Condemnation of LIPA's Sandy Response

Blue-ribbon panel hears testimony Tuesday of inadequate preparedness, failed communication by utility.

A state investigative panel heard a bi-partisan condemnation Tuesday night of the Long Island Power Authority's response to Hurricane Sandy.

Republican Edward P. Mangano and Democrat Steve Bellone, the Nassau and Suffolk county executives, both offered scathing accounts of LIPA's lack of preparedness and communication to the state commission empowered to investigate the utility's performance.

Bellone's account was the most blistering, telling the blue-ribbon panel that he stopped speaking with LIPA on Day 9 of the crisis and dispatched police officers to LIPA substations to demand answers.

"I realized at that point that LIPA was incapable of giving me the real-time information I needed," Bellone said. "I saw they were completely incapable of serving their Long Island customers."

In a public hearing at the SUNY-Old Westbury, Mangano told the Moreland Commission a similar story Tuesday:

"The information we were getting from LIPA didn't meet our needs," Mangano said, adding that conflicting information was often the norm.

Both leaders said LIPA had no adequate plan in place to inspect flood-damaged homes, even after the utility announced electricity would not be restored until homes were inspected.

In response to a question from commission member the Nassau County district attorney, Mangano said LIPA, "did not appear to utilize Hurricane Irene as a learning opportunity (to prepare) for Sandy."

Both county executives stressed the need for LIPA's top management to make dramatic changes in their storm readiness and their ability to communicate with and coordinate the thousands of utility workers who were called in to help.

As the storm hit on Oct. 29, Gil C. Quiniones, president of the New York Power Authority, was asked by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to assist LIPA with its restoration efforts. He testified to shortcomings in the utility's ability to deploy its workforce, some of whom had traveled from as far away as Canada and the West Coast of the U.S.:

"(The utility didn't) know which parts of the service territory were ready for restoration, and which were still too badly damaged or flooded to send in work crews and equipment," Quiniones said. "In some cases, areas that had been designated as flooded contained non-flooded sectors in which electric service could, in fact, have been restored."

Belone described it as "a massive failure of leadership."

The Moreland Commission, appointed by Cuomo in November, is co-chaired by Robert Abrams and Benjamin Lawsky. It includes the Rev. Floyd Flake and former New York City Public Advocate Mark Green.

LIPA had a lone defender: the president of the Long Island Rail Road, said LIPA executives held twice-daily phone conversations with the railroad and worked quickly to restore rail service to and from Penn Station. "They focused attention on the railroad's needs," Williams said.

More than 20 speakers offered oral testimony, many adding personal stories about the power outage that left 100,000 Long Islanders in the cold and dark during November. Some called for stricter public oversight of its management.

The commission is accepting oral testimony from the public. To voice your comments, go to its website here or email comments to comments@moreland.ny.gov.

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Frank December 12, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Did Suzette Smookler do a good job catering a healthy and delicious spread? Funny how this commission only finds fault in "response times" or "emergency preparedness"... What about the entire LIPA Board of Trustees being run by non-power professionals (including the nutritionist Suzette Smookler) appointed by NYS politicians? That's not a glaring problem? What a joke! Get up and Get, Get down, Moreland Commission is a joke in your town. Get up and Get, Get down, Moreland Commission is a joke in your town.
Chris December 12, 2012 at 06:34 PM
The Governor must think the voters are stupid!! Oh wait a minute.....They are stupid!!!
Archie Bunker December 13, 2012 at 02:36 AM
The LIRR and LIPA should merge .... Call it LIRRPA No electricity and no train service
John Pine December 13, 2012 at 03:27 AM
What a joke! New Jersey never would've tolerated such poor performance from a utility. Christie would've had the whole LIPA board locked up for what they did! I'm not fooled, I know Cuomo doesn't give a damn about us, he didn't do a single thing while we froze in the dark for days, and he won't do anything now either. His clan is responsible for the whole mess we're in now, when LIPA was created and we absorbed all of LILCO's debt. LIPA and Cuomo need to go.
John Doe December 14, 2012 at 01:48 AM
I like what John Pine said. I heard a rumor that north Jersey's PSE&G is buying out LIPA. Is this true? If so I would love it. They have better track record than LIPS.


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