Paul L. Gioia, Who Oversaw Nuclear Power in New York, Dies at 81

Paul L. Gioia, a former apprentice electrician who for five years oversaw New York State’s utility companies as they struggled to cope with the public’s growing concerns over nuclear power plants and consumer complaints about their costs, died on Feb. 13 at his home in Loudonville, N.Y. He was 81.

The cause of his death, in a hamlet just north of the state capital in Albany, was cardiac arrhythmia, Clarence J. Sundram, a longtime friend and former colleague in state government, said.

Mr. Gioia (pronounced JOY-ya) was an apolitical lawyer when he was appointed chairman of the Public Service Commission by Gov. Hugh L. Carey in 1981.

“As the P.S.C. chairman, he stood up for the duty of quasi-judicial officers to make their judgments independent of political influences,” Mr. Sundram said. “He had a strong sense of right and wrong and the courage to act on his convictions even when he knew it could cost him his job.”

But Mr. Gioia’s independence ran afoul of Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, Mr. Carey’s successor and a fellow Democrat.

In August 1986, a gubernatorial election year, Mr. Cuomo ousted Mr. Gioia, the first time in a half-century that a governor had removed a chairman of the commission, whose seven members regulate operations, rates and financing for the state’s electric, gas, steam, telephone and water supply corporations. The chairman has only one vote, but typically sets the commission’s agenda.

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