Blumenfeld: A reason to curse the darkness

The New York State Legislature has decreed that the state will be totally dependent on electric power by the end of this decade.

Putting aside the enormous cost of renewable electrical generation that will be passed on to the consumer, or whether wind turbines can even remotely replace the energy produced by natural gas, the question ratepayers need to ask is who is going to manage this massive expansion of the electrical use on Long Island?

It is far from a rhetorical question. It could profoundly change the cost of living on Long Island.

It comes at a time when a state legislative committee is considering the break-up of the public-private partnership that is currently keeping the island’s lights on. PSEG Long Island is under contract to manage the electric grid. Simply put: If they do a competent, professional job they get paid. If they prove otherwise, especially responding to severe weather, they get financially penalized. Their deal is just like the rest of us in business. It’s called accountability and performance attached to a paycheck.

The alternative operating model now under consideration by the state legislature would transform the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) from its current role as a holding company that manages the debt for the abandoned Shoreham Atomic Energy plant and keep tabs on PSEG Long Island’s performance metrics.

Instead, the state would give LIPA the keys to running the electrical grid through municipalization, ditching the public-private agreement now in place that incentives performance. This change in operational management would arrive as we are directed to become totally dependent on the power of electricity. LIPA’s CEO, Tom Falcone explored that option, offering testimony before a legislative committee where he stated, “(Another) alternative is to place LIPA’s assets under its direct management. This involves hiring staff to provide the management services currently outsourced to PSEG Long Island. Principally, this includes 19 senior managers, as well as the in-sourcing of certain services provided by PSEG affiliate companies…”

For those of who are long time veterans of Long Island’s pursuit of the future this is called empire building. Much like the implacable laws of gravity, this option will create a massive, expensive, insular government authority that will be answerable to no one.

This will be a burgeoning bureaucracy tasked with managing the massive and expensive shift from fossil fuel to all electric. It will be tasked with overseeing on Long Island the first-in-the-nation measure to phase out fossil fuel equipment that include furnaces, water heaters, clothes dryers, gas stoves, and outdoor BBQs in most new construction. To be clear, this proposed landmark climate law requires a steep reduction in emissions, with a target of net-zero by 2050. Electrifying new and existing buildings is central to this plan. The implications are enormous.

One can already hear LIPA’s insistence it will need more staff, for if there is one thing government agencies love more than anything else it is new mandated responsibilities that allows them to grow staff, space, and most important of all, budgets. Under these new energy regulations one can expect LIPA to create new departments, hire layers of management, appoint new supervisors, promote vice presidents, and create a hidden patronage system that Boss Tweed could only dream of.

In describing her personal philosophy First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt once said she would rather light a candle than curse the darkness. Given the proposed future of all electric energy run by yet another government agency, lighting candles may be an attractive alternative. But we will still be cursing the darkness and those who came up with this scheme.


Ed Blumenfeld is president of BDG, Ltd. Syosset, whose real estate development firm has a portfolio that includes regionally significant retail, entertainment, commercial, and aviation projects.


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By Opinion