Highest Rates, Slack Service

    It comes as no surprise that the Long Island Power Authority can be criticized for what appeared to be a slow and noncoummunicative response to Hurricane, or, Tropical Storm Irene. In the aftermath of what was a relatively mild blow, few LIPA crews were seen on the South Fork, and for many, electricity was not restored for up to a week. A reasonable worry is how LIPA and its partner, National Grid, would perform in a real catastrophe.
    The company has said that its major circuits were restored quickly. What took so long, it said, was sorting out all of the many problems that kept the lights off, some in backyards that were choked by trees and limbs. That sounds suspiciously like a utility that wants to blame its customers for its problems.
    It was reassuring to hear this week from Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. that state hearings about LIPA’s performance after Irene were inevitable. He said the state should extend questioning to disaster-recovery planning and public outreach in addition to performance in this test. He added that greater thought should be given to burying power lines to prevent widespread outages. To see this done, Mr. Thiele said the members of LIPA’s board, who are politically appointed, should change in order to foster greater accountability.
    These seem prudent steps, particularly for a utility with rates that are always among the highest in the nation but one that surveys show is among the lowest in customer satisfaction.