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New York Bill Would Require Electric Utilities To Disclose Executive Salaries, Report Expenses

Gustav Holmström

Top executives who manage electricity distribution on Long Island could have to make their salaries public. That's one part of a package of bills to hold Long Island Power Authority and its service provider, PSEG Long Island, accountable and transparent.

A months-long process is underway at LIPA to re-evaluate its service contract with PSEG Long Island since the utility company’s poor performance in response to Tropical Storm Isaias last August. LIPA could replace its contact with other service providers or manage the regional electric grid themselves.

“PSEG-LI is a contractor for a public authority that has as its mission the supplying of a most basic societal need: electricity,” New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, who sponsored several of the bills, said in a statement. “As was the case last year with Tropical Storm Isaias, we have seen time and time again the breakdown in communication and the failure of the utility to function as it should and supply all Long Islanders with power."

“We cannot allow PSEG Long Island to continue putting Long Island residents through this nightmare,” Thiele said, referring to performance during Isaias.

A measure requires service providers like PSEG Long Island to complete an annual stress test of all outage management and communications systems — the same ones that broke down during Isaias and left customers in the dark for several days without notice.

A LIPA investigation found that this failure was preventable and due to poor management and inadequate testing of the systems by PSEG Long Island management.

Still, the process has strained public confidence in LIPA and PSEG Long Island, said Ryan Madden, sustainability organizer at Long Island Progressive Coalition, an advocacy group that lobbied for the legislation.

"The LIPA reform bills that passed this legislative session are a great step towards building a more accountable and transparent utility,” Madden said. “As we learned from last month's LIPA public hearings about the pathway forward for the utility, the next step must be public power."

“The contract with PSEG-LI cannot continue and the public-private partnership model must end," he continued in a statement. “That is how we get true accountability and open the door for more meaningful community involvement in our energy system.”

The legislation allows New Yorkers to review executive compensation of public utilities (LIPA executive compensation is already public information), and requires LIPA and its service providers to report to the state on a semi-annual basis their expenses, including advertising and lobbying dollars.

A native Long Islander, J.D. is WSHU's managing editor. He also hosts the climate podcast Higher Ground. J.D. reports for public radio stations across the Northeast, is a journalism educator and proud SPJ member.