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Speaking Truth To Power (Companies.)

Here in Florida, we are not unfamiliar with the devastation and anxiety a hurricane brings. So when mega-storm Sandy hit New Jersey and New York a few weeks ago, we understood the heartache and the uncertainty many of the people are going through.

While the damage is extensive and of course ranges from homes being totally wiped off the face of the earth, to trees down, to a few shingles being blown off a roof to just getting wet when you walked outside, one of the main challenges for the people in the affected areas has been the loss of electrical power.

We know how that plays out. The loss of power is one thing that when restored, gives people the most sense of safety and normalcy in their lives. When a disaster hits an area, power companies across the land send resources to the affected region to help restore power to homes and businesses. People want – and people pay – to have the power restored quickly and hopefully efficiently.

We doubt if either “restored” or “efficiently” applies to the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA).

As part of the restoration of power, LIPA requires an inspection of the home by a licensed electrician. And not just any licensed electrician. No, that would make too much sense. The electrician must be licensed within the city in which the home or business exists. This means that homes can’t be inspected by electricians from other cities or other counties.

The electrician fills out a form certifying the structure is safe and then LIPA will turn the power back on.

Where do you get the form?

You print it out on your computer.

The computer without power.

A Long Island Power Authority official told a crowd of 300 Rockaway residents that they would need to hire a licensed city electrician to inspect their homes before LIPA could restore power, and suggested the homeowners print out inspection forms — from the Internet.

“But we don’t have power!” the crowd shouted back at LIPA’s vice president of operations, Nicholas Lizanich.

A red-faced Lizanich then told the Queens residents they could pick up forms at LIPA command centers on the peninsula.

We have to say that LIPA waived the requirement the electrician be licensed in the city last Friday, but we have to wonder why the requirement existed in the first place. What public good does it serve to have a requirement that restricts workers and in a time of disaster, help to who are looking to recover from a storm?

It makes no sense whatsoever.

The numbers seem to back up the idea that the requirement stalled power restoration efforts rather than aided them:

Perhaps none of the utilities has drawn criticism as widespread, or as harsh, as the Long Island Power Authority. About 76,000 of the homes and businesses it serves were still without power early Monday.

By comparison, Con Edison reports 1,469 customers without power in New York City and Westchester County.

In New Jersey, PSE&G reports 99.9 percent of the 1.7 million customers impacted by Sandy have had their power restored. In a press release the utility said 19 customers remain without power, and 259 customers affected by last week’s nor-easter remain without service.

Jersey Central Power & Light has restored power to all but 3,345 customers by Monday morning. The utility said customers on barrier islands along the Jersey shore will be without power indefinitely because homes there are too damaged to have electricity restored and are currently uninhabitable.

Generally speaking, we have to wonder why any regulation that can be waived without harm to the public during times of disaster recovery needs in to be in place to begin with. Often times it seems regulations and even licensing requirements for some professions get in the way of economic growth and self reliance.

But the discussion of licensing is for another day.

For today, we can only shake our head at the idiocy and shortsightedness of LIPA.


Tip o’ the sombrero to Walter Olson at Overlawyered.com and his post at the CATO Institute.



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