Article about repowering forum in Oceanside/Island Park Herald

Forum planned on power plant in Island on Tuesday, November 13th at 7pm at Lincoln Orens Middle School

By Jeff Lipton

Officials in Island Park plan to hold a community forum next month on the possible impact of the Long Island Power Authority’s proposed agreement to purchase the Barrett power plant from KeySpan/National Grid.

Officials said the meeting would take place soon after Election Day, possibly at one of the local schools, and would bring residents up to date on the proposal, which, if LIPA follows through on the purchase, would repower the plant and thus reduce customers utility rates.

“Right now, until I get more information on it, I’m in favor of repowering,” said Island Park Mayor Jim Ruzicka. “First off, it will be a newer plant, and as for the longevity of the plant, we’ll have it for a long time, [which is important] for tax purposes and [receiving] revenue through taxes.”

In addition, Ruzicka said, repowering the Barrett plant would mean it would run much more cleanly and efficiently. Ratepayers would reap $236 million in economic benefits if LIPA follows through with its plans, authority officials said.

According to a story that has been circulating in the community, however, the power plant will not be repowered, but will be shut down entirel which both LIPA and KeySpan officials strongly denied. “That’s news to me,” said a spokeswoman for KeySpan.

“One of our major concerns is, what if the power plant disappears? Then what do we do with the tax base?” said Ruzicka. “Our taxes are high enough.”

Bert Cunningham, a LIPA spokesman, said that since December 2005, when the proposed agreement was signed, very little has changed. “There¹s nothing new,” he said. “No decision has been made as to LIPA exercising its option.”

The agreement gave LIPA the option to purchase both the Island Park plant and another in Far Rockaway for $75 million before an initial deadline of December 2006, which reportedly has been extended to next May. The agreement also stipulates that KeySpan will pay LIPA $69 million to help regulate energy costs for two years.

Cunningham said that one possibility is to close the Barrett plant and build a new one right next to it. “It’s a prime candidate for repowering, which is taking the old plant and putting in new technology,” he said. “It would be a newer, cleaner and more efficient facility.” Cunningham added that LIPA could purchase either the Island Park or Far Rockaway plants, or both, or neither.

Jonathan Grindell, a community organizer for the Long Island Progressive Coalition, is in favor of LIPA’s repowering the Barrett plant because of the many health and energy benefits that would be derived from such a move. He said that the proposal would upgrade a facility that is 50 years old, reduce pollution up to 90 percent and potentially double or triple the plant’s efficiency.

“It’s a win-win situation,” said Grindell, adding that it would increase tax revenue for the community as well. He said that much of the tax revenue the Island Park School District receives comes from the Barrett plant. Other officials said that the benefit of the proposed agreement for KeySpan would be improved efficiency in LIPA’s electrical system, and that LIPA has extended an agreement making KeySpan its primary power supplier from 2008 to 2013.

Feeding gas and oil-generated power into an electrical grid, the Barrett Plant generates a significant portion of the energy used in southwestern Nassau County. Local environmental groups have pointed to Barrett and plants in Northport and Port Jefferson as most in need of repowering because of their age, claiming that they produce comparatively high levels of pollution. The Barrett plant consists of two units, the first built in 1956 and the other in 1963.

Cunningham said that LIPA was completing a detailed economic analysis to determine the feasibility of buying the plants. The proposed agreement must be approved by both LIPA’s and KeySpan’s boards of trustees as well as the state’s attorney general and comptroller. The LIPA board gave its OK on June 6, approving the agreement in principle.

Experts on repowering will be invited to speak at next month’s forum. Legislators Denise Ford (R-Long Beach) and Jeff Toback (D-Oceanside) will also be invited, as well as officials from the Long Island Progressive Coalition.