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Lavine Pushing LIPA Customer Bill of Rights

Legislation targets preparedness, communication with customers and prevention of another gas shortage.

Assemb. Charles Lavine, D-Glen Cove, is working to create legislation that would set legal standards for how the Long Island Power Authority operates and responds to its customers, his office said Monday.

"Long Islanders pay some of the highest utility rates in the nation and have every right to demand their money's worth in service, accountability and transparency," Lavine said in a statement. "A LIPA Customer Bill of Rights, written into state law, will help to protect us from another devastating failure."

The legislation has seven provisions:

  1. The establishment of an emergency management plan and the efficient reporting and maintenance of wires and poles.
  2. Sufficient customer service representatives available by phone and email to address customer complaints and concerns, and will have to provide customers with specific restoration information.
  3. In the event of a widespread outage, LIPA will be required to formulate a regional timetable for power restoration based on town, village or school district. These regional timetables must be posted on LIPA's website.
  4. Communication of the number of crews in each region. The number of active and dispatched crews must also beposted on LIPA's website.
  5. Requirement that LIPA provide power to gas stations and other refueling stations in order to prevent chaos at the pump and hours-long waits for gasoline.
  6. Establishment of an emergency management plan with arrangements for bringing in staff, equipment and supplies in advance and the establishment of communication channels for customers.
  7. The Authority would be required to investigate each customer complaint regarding tree interference with electrical wires and broken or rotting poles. The complaints must be given a service number and incorporated into a tracking system maintained by the Authority. The Authority would also be required to undertake a yearly inspection of the pole.

Lavine called customer frustration during weeks of outages "legitimate" and said his legislation addresses those complaints, especially LIPA's responsiveness or lack thereof to customers who were desperate for any information.

"The lack of communication from an entity serving as a public utility to citizens who are alone in the cold and the dark is unacceptable, and we must ensure that it never happens again," said Lavine.

A spokesman for LIPA was not immediately available for comment.

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