It is common knowledge that LIPA is unregulated and does not have any substantial oversight. For this reason both the NYS Senate and Assembly have passed bills during the last session of the legislature to subject LIPA to PSC scrutiny.
One related issue, however, that has not received much attention is that LIPA also grants permits for most of the projects it sponsors. This occurs under the State Environmental Quality Review Act which allows government entities to proclaim lead agency status and issue permits. For example, not too long ago, LIPA issued a permit for a solar project on the property of the Brookhaven National Laboratory that it had solicited proposals for and awarded a contract. As a condition of the permit, LIPA also included a requirement that the authority extend a grant of $2 million of ratepayer money to the Town of Brookhaven for land preservation.
Even if you are the most ardent supporter of renewable energy, wouldn’t you have questions about the merit of the 32 MW solar project at the Brookhaven National Laboratory site? To begin with, the average daily capacity of the project over the course of a year is 10 MW, a far cry from its maximum rating of 32 MW. For the $300 million the project costs, LIPA would have been able to contribute to over 2000 solar installations for its customers. Finally, by installing individual solar roofs instead of pursuing this project, LIPA also would have avoided the need to destroy 200 acres of pristine trees.
The obvious concern here is, should LIPA be serving as judge, jury and benefactor for its projects and is this in the best interest of its ratepayers. What makes this potential conflict even more troubling is that LIPA does not operate under any substantive third-party oversight. This is yet another reason why it is so important for the Governor to support the recently passed LIPA oversight legislation.
Matthew C. Cordaro
LIPA Oversight Committee co-chairman