Albany (WALK) - The deal is done, and so is LIPA.
After a few hours of late-night debate, the state legislature approved Governor Cuomo's plan to all but do away with LIPA, and hand over control of Long Island's electric system to PSEG, the private utility based in New Jersey. The Assembly approved the bill in a 1 AM vote this morning, while the Senate followed suit about a half hour later.
The Senate vote was unanimous, but the vote in the Assembly was not. Several Assembly members from Long Island voted no because they believe the plan doesn't give government regulators enough power to veto proposed rate hikes.
The deal freezes electric rates, but only for two years. A new Long Island-based branch of the state's Department of Public Service will be formed to scrutinize items like rates, budgets, service and storm readiness, but would have no power to force LIPA or PSEG to go along with its recommendations.
After Governor Cuomo signs off on the bill, as expected, LIPA will eventually be reduced to a holding company for the utility's debt, with a nine-member board. PSEG will take over other operations related to the management and service of the Island's power grid. LIPA staff will be cut down to about 20 from about 100 currently.