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Mayor: Fight Over Power Plant is About More Than Just Port Jefferson Village

Mayor Margot Garant talks about what led to the claim that the village recently filed against National Grid.

From Where I Sit

I admit, when I first became Mayor in 2009, I thought the LIPA/GRID issue was all about Port Jefferson Village. What would happen to us if our plant were to close? Our school might close, taxes double, more stores empty and another waterfront 30 acre property blighted… Shoreham II?

Surely not during my watch! So I began a quest and have been reading, discussing, probing, asking questions and meeting with local and state politicians, CEOs, chair people, public relations specialists, economist, scientists, policy makers, Directors, Board Members and various stake holding agencies and thousands of concerned citizens throughout Nassau and Suffolk for well over three and half years. Each day of the journey it became clearer that this was not just about Port Jefferson, but rather about the future of every resident and rate payer of LIPA on Long Island and that now, in 2012, when the LIPA SHOREHAM bailout contracts are expiring, this would be THE TIME to correct this problem for Port Jefferson and all of Long Island.

I have a long history of face to face meetings with attorneys and executive personnel members of both LIPA and National Grid, members of the Public Service Commission, The State Comptrollers office, State Senate, Assembly, US Congressional and Senate representatives, County Executives, Town Supervisors, Councilmen, Tax Grievance attorneys, activists and energy experts ... you name it...we've gone and presented our case. "Work in Progress," "Requests for Proposals," "Power Purchase Agreements," "Renewable Energy," "State Energy Policy," "Management Service Agreements," "Independent Systems Operator," "Long Island Control Area," "PILOT's," "Load Serving Entity…" three and half years later and less than a year before the contracts expire… no legislative relief, no public energy policy, no appointed CEO of LIPA, no plan for communities where plants are closing, no bid from National Grid to repower their plants, audit reports pending, and far too many questions unanswered… while many, many concerned residents, children, teachers, public works employees, senior citizens, all rate payers, tax payers, hard working Long Islanders wait in the lurch.

So after asking all the right questions, and finding no solution, the Village hired an attorney to file a complaint with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission… the agency charged with the responsibility of making sure our energy market runs effectively, competitively, and not under the duress or monopolistic power of a dominant, controlling entity and here specifically, National Grid.

Our complaint alleges that so long as National Grid controls the majority of the capacity and electrical generation on Long Island and refuses to bid in the open, competitive procurement processes, they are financially benefiting from this form of economic withholding while Long Island ratepayers shoulder the burden. In other marketplaces, the owners of the facilities are required to invest in their plants to build, maintain and improve them.

On Long Island, Grid pays for nothing, we pay for everything under the terms of the old SHOREHAM BAILOUT contracts that did not provide incentives nor require the investments for modernization of our existing facilities or contribution toward the economic retirement of their inefficient units. So while we pay high tax rates and high energy costs, the plants remain antiquated, inefficient and some are being boarded up as we speak.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has consistently recognized the need to identify and correct the manipulation of market prices by monopoly participants with specific recognition that that manipulation of these markets often causes long-term harm to consumers and other market participants, never mind the devastation to a host community when a plant should close. While our complaint is complex, it was made primarily to address this question of manipulative market power thru a hearing and open comment process while also requesting a "time out" if you will, so the energy experts, policy makers, legislators and the Governor's office can take a closer look and leverage this opportunity to correct the inequities and inefficiencies of our energy market place on Long Island and put into place contracts that make sense, provide competitive pricing and which speak to a sound energy policy for us ONCE and FOR ALL. This is our number one economic growth and energy issue and I believe we deserve this second look...at the very least.

To those of you who have walked this journey with me shoulder to shoulder thank you for fighting the long fight… and to those of you who may not have agreed with our approaches and or our plight… I believe all along we only wanted the same outcome.

Respectfully,
Mayor Margot Garant
Port Jefferson Village

For more information, a copy of the complaint, or how to file a comment to the FERC in support of the Long Island initiative go to: www.PortJeff.com/PowerUp

greencap August 11, 2012 at 05:38 AM
Mayor Garant: Even if the grid was opened to competitors, do you think someone would really pay 27 million a year in property tax? This is about Port Jefferson as that benefit goes directly to the small number of residents here while everyone else pays for it in higher rates. Yes the power situation on LI is ridiculous, but your attempt to direct the argument to this is silly. Bottom line is the power plant does pay way too much in taxes that give Port Jefferson residents a disproportionate amount of benefit. I am glad you are taking on National Grid about energy policy as this is important to all on LI, but I really have never heard a rational unbiased argument as to why National Grid should pay so much money to Port Jefferson.
Greg Fischer August 11, 2012 at 08:15 PM
Great stuff. Greg Fischer --- working to force the election of LIPA trustees perfect100@hotmail.com
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Lee Rosner August 13, 2012 at 04:22 PM
As our Mayor articulated above, what it comes down to is that repowering Long Island's larger existing power plants makes plain old good sense. The decisionmakers for Long Island's energy needs should focus on updating our existing infrastructure today! Port Jefferson Village has publically stated that its ready to negotiate the PJ power plant's property valuation in exclange for a modernized plant. What PJ doesn't want is a brownfield disaster in its back yard. It appears that the only way Long Island will get repowered plants is if the ownership of Long Island's major power generating plants is broken up. National Grid is more interested in power distribution, not power generation. We have the wrong company in near complete monopolistic control of Long Island's power generating plants. I'm not quite sure who's to blaim to allowing this arrangement in the first place. We are in trouble. Time for a big change.

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