By Margot Garant, Mayor, Village of Port Jefferson
Our community is currently in the midst of a fight to maintain our quality of life. If successful, the recent lawsuit brought by the Long Island Power Authority and National Grid to reduce by 90 percent the taxes paid on the Port Jefferson Power Plant would wreak havoc on our school district and village budgets, and impact other tax supported services in our community.
We are fighting back and the community is behind us. Of course, we are challenging the lawsuit, but at the same time, our elected officials are exploring various ways in which legislative relief will make it possible to cushion possible impacts. A LIPA Task Force comprising many community leaders has met numerous times with LIPA and National Grid to seek solutions. A community awareness and action campaign, “Repower Port Jefferson,” is also underway; for information, go to portjeff.com or “like” Repower Port Jefferson on Facebook.
While we address the immediate issues, many of us believe that repowering the Port Jefferson plant is the most sustainable option for our future; modernization provides the best long-term solution for this community, as well as LIPA ratepayers. We should be thinking about how to increase the value of this plant, which should remain an important energy asset, rather than allowing it to be further devalued. Repowering Port Jefferson offers many advantages over building new plants or importing power from off Island.
LIPA and National Grid have performed studies on repowering to determine which plants are most technically and economically feasible to repower. While the EF Barrett site in Island Park ranked first in ease of construction, Port Jefferson ranked second because it has an edge in natural gas supply and transmission exit capacity and is adjacent to a deepwater harbor.
At Port Jefferson, vital energy infrastructure is already in place at the currently operating plant and critical links to natural gas supplies and grid transmission lines is superior to anything that can be built elsewhere. Specific advantages include:
· Offers a better deal for all LIPA ratepayers, big and small
From a cost standpoint, the option to build on existing sites and use existing infrastructure cannot be duplicated.
· Avoids building new plants that turn open greenspace into industrial brownfields
Building new power plants on open greenspace in communities that do not now have plants is less preferable than re-using industrial property.
· Avoids leaving behind shuttered, polluted plant sites requiring costly remediation
Were the Port Jefferson plant to shut down, it’s likely that a full remediation of the site would be pursued at a potential cost of many millions of dollars to LIPA ratepayers.
· Improves air quality by replacing less efficient plants with advanced technology
By taking large, inefficient steam boilers off line and replacing them with state-of-the art plants, air quality receives a dual benefit.
· Provides ratepayers the greatest value for ongoing tax payments to host communities
Rebalancing the value vs cost equation makes far more sense than creating new benefit packages with additional communities.
Can it be done? One need only look just west to Queens where it was just announced that an older 600-megawatt former Con Ed plant will be repowered with a state-of-the-art 1040-megawatt facility on the old plant’s property, creating 700 jobs and a host of other benefits.
LIPA can realize all of these advantages by making a public commitment to enter into a long-term power purchase agreement with National Grid or any other company willing to acquire and repower Port Jefferson.