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LIBN Column: Why LI loves to hate utilities

Kris LaGrange's picture
Jan 03, 2014

Long Islanders have a love-hate relationship with their energy companies, from LILCO and KeySpan to National Grid and now PSEG.
Once a nuclear power plant called the Island home, but in 1989 – with 74 percent of Long Islanders fearing an accident – the plant closed. A funny idea called LIPA was formed in 1985; it bought the nuclear plant’s debt and assumed all responsibilities as the face of Long Island energy delivery. That act closed this year, with less than stellar reviews.
Through the years, politicians have made careers out of complaining about our utility companies. Many community advocacy groups have formed, finger-pointing public hearings have been organized, political cronies have landed plum positions and government commissions have been created specifically to investigate God knows what.
It’s all quite comical and silly. We care so much about what our utility companies are doing, and rightfully so, but imagine if PSEG comes in and cleans house, boosts customer confidence, decreases debt, lowers rates, etc … would the Long Island community know what to do with itself?
No more press conferences. No more commissions. No more rallies against paying bills, and the newspapers would have to find inspiration elsewhere.
The one constant in the chaos is the employees and their utility union, which they formed in 1937 when LILCO recognized IBEW Local 1049. These men and women have seen and done it all. While their current employers, National Grid and PSEG, put out press releases about empowering customers, 1049 works with the Utility Labor Council of NYS fight for better staffing-level requirements.
They want recourse for collections employees who face violence in performing their work, plus a few other initiatives that will create jobs, invest in our transmission infrastructure and decrease our reliance on foreign power.
They’re even fighting a move by National Grid to send hundreds of call center jobs from Melville to Brooklyn. National Grid has set up booths at shopping malls telling customers this is a good idea, but this is Long Island and no one’s buying it.
Look, we need utility company controversy on Long Island. We wouldn’t know what to do without it.
It is, in a way, a catalyst for the free exchange of ideas.
So welcome to Long Guy Land, PSEG. Looks like you’ll fit right in.

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