The following piece was published in the LIBN June 24th. What is interesting is that Former chairman Bob Catell is one and the same gentleman that originally “architected” the current situation at LIPA and National Grid, and who is now pushing privatization. It should be questioned why he brings this up now and his advise should be taken with a grain of salt. The current arrangement has led to the ongoing daily debacle of inefficiency, lack of oversight and downright greed. Quite puzzling, or is it not?

By Bob Catell

I must take issue with Matt Cordaro that municipalization is the only option for the future of LIPA  (LIBN May 25, 2011).

Cordaro is advocating for a transition for LIPA that puts the Long Island-based operators from National Grid into the public service. No small feat in itself, but just as Gov. Andrew Cuomo  takes on the tough challenges of public pension costs and defined benefit plans, it’s hard to imagine how putting a few thousand more wage earners into the public system would result in savings to taxpayers.

Cordaro forecasts a 20 percent increase in rates if LIPA were privatized, and I have seen no analysis in the years we have looked at this to support such a number. LIPA debt, estimated at close to $7 billion, could be reduced by as much as half due to the capital received from a private sale, resulting in savings of hundreds of millions of dollars in interest. Also, a private utility could use tax-exempt financing due to the “two-county rule,” a unique piece of federal legislation which provides tax-free debt for utility infrastructures. No increase there.

And, at the risk of offending the legion of state workers who work long hours in challenging positions, few would argue that there are efficiency gains available by bringing assets in to a government operating environment. Unable to attract the skilled talent it required, LIPA spent tens of millions on outside consultants every year to help with forecasts and system oversight. Their costs would be eliminated under a private utility with rate oversight by the New York Public Service Commission.

I have maintained that the issues are complex and the best route unclear. Just as I do not advocate privatization as a singular solution, I discount Cordaro’s logic in declaring municipalization the only logical choice.

I further disagree millions have been wasted in studying a challenge with an obvious answer. We need knowledgeable professionals to instruct thoughtful political leadership on how to seek the best future for Long Island’s energy needs. I’m not sure we have done that yet and not sure we want to have this discussion for another 10 years.

Catell is chairman of the Advanced Energy Research & Technology Center at Stony Brook University and the former vice president of National Grid.


About lipaoversight

LIPA Oversight Committee was created to analyze the rates and practices to determine if it is working in the best interests of the Suffolk County ratepayers
This entry was posted in catell, lipa, municipalization, national grid, Oversight and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Rob from LI says:

    Right now LIPA is ALREADY being run by a private company… National Grid. And there is ZERO visibility so we have NO idea whether anything is being run efficiently. Take a look at the budgets LIPA releases. Funding for a small group of administrative LIPA people and then a huge sucking black hole of money going to National Grid. What happens to that chunk of money? Just take a look at some of the bills sent to LIPA by National Grid that have come to light via this oversight board. I find it hard to imagine that even the laziest most wasteful fully pensioned government worker could compete with $700 bagel bills and $1400 steak dinners

    Maybe it’s my mistake, perhaps what Mr. Catell means is that we need ANOTHER private company, not the private company we have now. I’m sure that will be much better.

  2. Freedom says:

    LIPA needs to be eliminated, and we need to go back to the old ways. When LILCO ran things they couldn’t fleece a government agency like these private money hungry companies do. LILCO was guaranteed a small rate of return. Government [LIPA] is a giant money sucking government monolith who really is only concerned with looking good by “innovating” using other peoples money. The rate payers. Using my money to pay for solar panels for my neighbors so I can pay extra for my already expensive electricity. Giving my money to “charities” so they look good. The list is long so I won’t continue with there wasteful projects. News flash LIPA you aren’t giving away anything to charity, you’re stealing from me and my fellow ratepayers. Go away!

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