Since LIPA Suckered by Hurricane Earl, Customers May Have to Pay More

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    A highway sign warns of approaching Hurricane Earl on I-93 south in Boston, Friday, Sept. 3, 2010.

    The storm is over, but now there's a price to pay for all that anxiety over Hurricane Earl.

    Last week's storm was forecast to be the strongest to hit Long Island's East End in nearly twenty years. And to handle possible outages, the Long Island Power Authority brought in 1,600 workers from out of state, at an estimated cost of $30 million. LIPA's budget -- already reeling from combating four major storms earlier this year -- is now even further in the red.

    Who will foot the bill? Most likely, LIPA customers.

    "Currently, we're 102 million dollars over budget," the Executive Director of Communications for LIPA, Vanessa Baird-Streeter, told NBCNewYork. "But that represents less than two percent of LIPA's total operating budget."

    LIPA says there will be no rate increases this year but all options are on the table for next year.

    "We'll continue to look internally at cost cutting measures and other things that we can do to mitigate the burden on the customer," said Baird-Streeter.

    And some of those customers are already concerned about a possible rate hike. Lucille Seitz, a LIPA customer who lives in Bay Shore, told us "they've been saying we're past due for a Hurricane for five years. So why don't they add more to the budget?"

    Fred Lang, of Farmingville, added, "if it's an extra dollar a month to be banking on something in the future, it might be worth it."

    Federal funds helped pay for some of the repairs after the Nor'easter in March because parts of Long Island were declared a disaster area. But that's not  wasn't the case with Earl, which didn't wind up meriting the extra crews.

    However, because the storm was supposed to hit such a wide area, LIPA says if it had to do it all over again, it still would've brought in those extra workers. Baird-Streeter pointed out that "in reaching outside your regular area, you have to ensure travel time for these crews to be here on the ground to assist with restoration efforts."

    But Kathy Bass, of Huntington Station, isn't pleased. "I just think they're robbing people. I wish Con Ed would come in," she said.

    This year, LIPA's storm budget was just 27-million dollars. With two months still to go in Hurricane season, LIPA's trying to secure a bigger storm budget for next year. One that might have to be paid for, in part, by its customers.