Hurricane Sandy recovery and occupational licensing

To get your power turned back on in the Rockaways, according to a spokesman for the Long Island Power Authority, you’re going to need a pre-inspection for your house not just from a licensed electrician, but from one licensed in NYC — nearby Nassau County, or upstate, won’t do. If occupational licensure makes any sense at all — and Milton Friedman had a thing or two to say about that — it certainly needs to be reconsidered under conditions of public emergency and disaster recovery, or so I argue in my new post at Cato at Liberty.

For more background on the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) as a political football, by the way, check out Nicole Gelinas in the New York Post. Also on disaster recovery, why this might be a good time to rethink municipal ordinances barring property owners from removing old trees [Chris Fountain]. And: “Can customers sue power companies for outages? Yes, but it’s hard to win” [Alison Frankel, Reuters]


  • Mr. Olson,

    You note in your CATO piece:

    Three states that suffered extensive tree downage from Sandy — Maryland, Connecticut and Rhode Island — forbid unlicensed tree trimming, although many a property owner would probably have appreciated the legal right to hire someone from a neighboring state to clear a blocked driveway.

    I would also put forth the regulations put a damper on people keeping their trees trimmed prior to the storm. Maryland saw a great deal of outrage from people after the June derecho where trees that were not trimmed interfered and toppled power lines. Many people blamed BG&E for the lack of trimming, but one has to wonder how many people would have trimmed trees if the licensing did not exist which would have resulted in more tree trimmers at a lower cost to the consumer.

    Instead, people were left with artificially high costs of tree trimming which they ignored until the untrimmed tree came toppling down on the power lines.

  • It isn’t clear to me that the problem here is occupational licensing per se so much as licensing in an overly small jurisdiction, such as New York City rather than New York State, and a failure to accept licenses from other jurisdictions, even in emergency situations. I grant that occupational licenses are often required unnecessarily, but the occupations at issue do not seem to be among them.

  • The New York City council could pass an emergency exemption if five minutes, if they wanted to. Those people voted for the people keeping the field bottled up. May they enjoy freezing in the dark.

  • […] our head at the idiocy and shortsightedness of LIPA. Tip o’ the sombrero to Walter Olson at and his post at the CATO […]