A Push for Local Utilities

    Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. is sponsoring state legislation that would restore the right of local governments on Long Island to establish their own public utilities.
    State law allows municipalities to “construct, lease, purchase, own, acquire . . . or operate” their own utilities to service their residents, and more than 40 municipalities across the state have established municipal power companies, including several on Long Island, such as Greenport, Freeport, and Rockville Centre. However, under a 1985 law that established the Long Island Power Authority, a state agency, municipal power companies may not be set up within LIPA’s service area.
    One reason for the creation of LIPA, Mr. Thiele wrote in a press release — aside from keeping the Shoreham nuclear power plant, which was considered unsafe, from opening — was to eliminate the Long Island Lighting Company, a private utility, and replace it with a “true public utility governed by Long Islanders,” including a board elected by Long Island residents.
    That goal, Mr. Thiele asserted, has never been, and never will be, fulfilled. LIPA “has never been governed by Long Islanders, and it has never been a ‘real’ public utility. It has never been more than a ‘shell’ corporation operated by political appointees who then contracted out operations to another private company. The perversion of this intent has meant disaster for Long Island, most recently manifested by the LIPA response to Superstorm Sandy,” he wrote in the release.
    If approved, Mr. Thiele said, his bill would give Long Island residents the “ability to choose municipal power, if they believe it would be superior to the proposed near-privatization model.