A bill that Kenneth P. LaValle, R-Port Jefferson introduced to encourage investment in the site of the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) power plant in Port Jefferson passed the state Senate on Tuesday and is now headed to the Assembly for a vote but some worry the bill alone is not enough.
The bill promises a minimum of 25 percent of the funds needed to clean up the site and multiple tax credits as incentives to attract potential investors to repower the plant.
According to Drew Biondo, director of communications for senator LaValle the legislation will extend a similar program that subsidizes the remediation of brownfields for manufacturers.
“We’re taking the New York State program and applying it towards this site,” he said.
In a response to an email, a National Grid spokesperson said that the company had no comment on the pending legislation. National Grid owns the property but has to purchase the power and manage the plant. Last year LIPA to lower the plant's property taxes up to 90 percent causing an .
A call for a solution from Albany has been coming out of the village’s . LaValle said in a statement that that the bill will attempt to generate interest in the site through legislation.
Port Jefferson mayor Margot Garant is excited about the attention the bill will give to the village’s woes.
“This is a great legislative step for Port Jefferson,” Garant said.
She said that at the very least it will draw attention to the Port Jefferson LIPA plant site and help to focus efforts on repowering.
“Repowering involves leveling the site or a good portion of it,” said Biondo. “That plant has been there for 50 years so who knows what’s in the ground.”
Companies might be afraid of taking on the Port Jefferson power plant site fearing the potential cost of remediation.
“The bill addresses that fear,” he said. “Some of the costs are covered for the clean-up by New York State.”
Now that the bill passed the state Senate it will head over to the Assembly. An assistant from the office of Assemblyman Steve Englebright, D-Setauket said that the bill was not introduced into the Assembly as of yet and he would make a statement on the issue when he had a chance to review the bill.
Thomas Bjurlof, a resident of Port Jefferson who is an energy and information technology consultant, thinks that while the bill is good and has argued for similar legislation, he finds a key problem still needs to be addressed.
“You have to remember that Long Island's inefficient legacy plants are owned by a private company, National Grid, who have repeatedly stated that the plants are not for sale,” he said. “The bill, as I read it fails to address the root issues, which are Grid's near monopoly and the lack of investment in the plants.”
Further complicating the issue is a bill co-sponsored by LaValle that mandates a state commission to review and approve certain LIPA rate increases.
“This bill will likely increase the cost of electricity on Long Island by forcing a less favorable rating of LIPA's debt,” said Burlof. “It may also eliminate long term power purchase agreements as a vehicle for securing funding for repowering projects and hence make repowering of the Port Jefferson plant less likely.”
Burlof said that he believes there are very good reasons for the state to encourage repowering, among them “significant reductions in CO2 emissions (40-50 percent), to avoid costly remediation of unsightly industrial brownfields,” not to mention the .
Repowering as a more efficient, environmentally safe power plant is an essential strategy for the village, especially in the wake of a recent announcement by LIPA and National Grid to remove the Far Rockaway and Glenwood power plants from their current Power Supply Agreement (PSA).
In a statement Paul DeCotis, vice president of power markets for LIPA said that the company is “continuing to transition our power generation supply to newer and more efficient generation, modernizing the electric system and lowering costs to our customers."
LIPA acknowledged that closing those plants would ultimately affect property values because the utility would significantly lower their contrbution to the tax base.
This same fear has motivated Port Jefferson village to to repower the local plant.
Burlof compares the old plant to a 1960's Ford Thunderbirds.
“They are expensive to drive and they create a lot of pollution,” he said. “Just like the plants."