Long Island AARP Members Put LIPA Concerns Front & Center at State Capitol

Feb 27, 2013, 16:43 ET from AARP New York

Utility's Poor Sandy Handling Lands it in Hot Seat – Long Island's 50+ Voice Concern over LIPA's Future, Push for Consumer Protections

ALBANY, N.Y., Feb. 27, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Long Island Power Authority's (LIPA) poor performance during Superstorm Sandy has drawn the ire of New York State lawmakers and one of the most powerful voting groups in the state: Long Island's aged 50+ population.  Today, a busload of Long Island seniors made the early morning trek to Albany to make their voice heard in the debate over the future of LIPA and make the case for establishing stronger utility consumer protections.

At a Senate hearing held today at the State Capitol on the issue, one thing was clear: Long Islanders 50+ are concerned and they don't want any changes to LIPA to cause their monthly electric bills to soar.  AARP testified at the hearing, driving home key points made in a recent analysis of the Moreland Act Commission recommendations conducted by the Association and the Public Utility Law Project.

"On behalf of AARP, I want to thank Senator Marcellino for holding this hearing on LIPA and for his continued work and leadership to help the people of Long Island on critical issues like this one," said Elizabeth Horan, AARP member from Long Island. "I've lived through several hurricanes, but Sandy was like no other and decimated so much of the Long Island I know and love. LIPA's response was disastrous and we need accountability, but it needs to be done right."  

At the hearing, AARP urged caution over a push to privatize LIPA. One recent study found moving from a public-owned utility to an investor-owned one could result in double-digit rate increases. Even with a proposed rate-freeze in place accompanying the privatization of LIPA, AARP warned that when the freeze expires, rates could soar.  The Association stated that it is also prime time for lawmakers to establish an independent consumer advocate office to represent the interests of New Yorkers when utility companies press for rate hikes and other regulatory changes.

"AARP is working to ensure that any action regarding LIPA or other utility company in New York truly balances the needs of utility companies with those of the consumer," said Will Stoner, AARP Associate State Director for Long Island. "Long Island ratepayers deserve a fair deal in any plan that moves forward to improve LIPA.  A utility consumer advocate office levels the playing field for all New York consumers and helps ensure the interests of residential consumers are at the table."

New York is one of only a handful of states lacking an independent utility consumer advocate office.  According to a recent AARP survey of New Yorkers, comprised mostly of LIPA customers, 73.2% said they didn't feel their interests were taken into consideration in utility rate hike cases and 77% stated support for the creation of the utility consumer advocate office.

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