A few weeks before PSEG Long Island releases its integrated resource plan, the Island Park community awaits what the forecast could mean for one of the region’s most prominent power plants, which sits in its backyard.
The E.F. Barrett Power Station, west of the Barnum Island Bridge, has operated in Island Park for roughly 60 years. But PSEG’s forthcoming analysis, which will detail for the Long Island Power Authority a variety of scenarios of power needs and initiatives, found no need for more energy on Long Island in the foreseeable future and that summer peak usage is growing at a slow rate, according to Sid Nathan, LIPA’s director of communications. He did not comment further, adding that next month’s integrated resource plan would discuss the possible future of specific plants.
The impending report — consistent with data in recent years showing an excess of power on Long Island as solar and green energy increases — sparked the backing of the Barrett plant by local leaders. State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat from Long Beach, said he would fight to keep the plant part of Long Island’s power grid, and that he was optimistic.
“The Barrett Power Plant is essential for not only the energy demands of our area, but also for the financial well-being of the Island Park and Oceanside school districts,” Kaminsky said in a statement. “Further, re-powering Barrett makes sense, as it would make the plant more efficient, cleaner and resilient to severe weather.”
Currently, Island Park’s Barrett plant awaits LIPA’s approval of a repowering project first proposed in December 2013. The potential overhaul of the existing facility calls for a new plant with electric generators, to be known as the Island Park Energy Center, according to a January project tracking report by National Grid. It is expected to provide “a more efficient and cost-effective facility to produce electricity while minimizing impacts on the surrounding communities and providing tax benefits into the future,” the report said.
Island Park Mayor Michael McGinty called Barrett an “outdated, high-emission plant” that needed the renovations. “We’re trying to reduce the carbon footprint wherever we can,” he said. “We’re trying to make our environment more green for our children, our grandchildren and the future, and here they are, they’re not moving forward.”
The expected lack of energy demand for the next two decades could further halt possible progress.
“I find that very discouraging and disturbing,” McGinty said of that possibility. “The local community was looking forward to the realization of environmental, reliability and efficiency benefits that would be achieved by that repowering.”
LIPA is in the middle of tax grievance proceedings filed against Nassau County, the Town of Huntington, the Village of Port Jefferson and the Town of Brookhaven — the tax jurisdictions for its four Long Island Lighting Company legacy power plants — in 2010, claiming that property taxes on these facilities are over-assessed by at least 90 percent.
According to a LIPA report released last month, the authority pays roughly $535 million per year in property taxes, payments in lieu of taxes and related fees, which amounts to roughly 15 percent of customers’ electric bills. This money is used to fund county, municipal, school and other governmental services.
Taxes on the four LILCO legacy plants — which includes the Barrett plant — are projected at $196 million in 2017, according to the report. The taxes on all of the other power plants under contract to LIPA are about $16 million per year. LIPA has paid $36 million in property taxes on the Barrett plant alone, the report said.
Bob Cohen, attorney for Melville-based firm Lamb & Barnosky, which represents Island Park schools, said the property taxes that LIPA pays for the Barrett plant has comprised about 47 percent of the district’s total tax base over the last few years. “If you remove that, obviously it would be devastating,” he said, adding that those funds would instead have to be paid by residential homeowners.
Cohen added that the district filed a lawsuit against LIPA and National Grid last year in Nassau County Supreme Court for allegedly breaching a promise made in the late-1990s not to bring any tax grievances “unless the assessment increase was abusively high.”
There is no timetable for when such tax challenges could be resolved, Cohen said.
Nassau County Legislator Denise Ford, a Republican from Long Beach, told the Herald she would write a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo on this issue, adding that she has long supported repowering the Barrett plant and that she was confident it will remain a part of the community.
“We need it in this area, we need it for electricity, and it needs to be upgraded and renovated,” said Ford, who added she would explore options in anticipation of the long-awaited tax grievance decision. “We will work with them to try to minimize the impact it would have — if they do win — on the residents in that area.”