LIPA Facing Large Bill to Get Lights On After Irene

The Long Island Power Authority is estimating that the cost of restoring power 523,000 of its customers in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene is about $176 million.

Chief Operating Officer Mike Hervey said about half of the cost will go toward paying about 7,500 employees and contractors - including about 3,500 brought in from out of state and put up in hotels - and the other half will go to materials like electrical wire and utility poles.

Hervey said officials will try to absorb the cost without imposing a rate increase on consumers.

LIPA also expects 75 percent of the cost to be covered by federal disaster relief funds, but that could take months. The remaining $44 million will be a factor in upcoming budgeting, but he said the goal is to keep customers' rates stable. LIPA's annual budget is about $3.6 billion, according to Hervey.

LIPA faced harsh criticism from Long Island officials and residents in the aftermath of Irene for poor communication about when power would be restored. In the worst cases, some customers were without power for over a week.