LIPC featured in Newsday Op-Ed on Repowering

LIPA must repower its plants to help Long Island

Lisa Tyson is director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, a grassroots advocacy group.

November 21, 2007

It’s great to see that the Long Island Power Authority is cutting the fat out of its 2008 budget, as was announced earlier this week. But to make a real difference to ratepayers, LIPA needs to address the issue of “repowering.”

The term refers to upgrading existing power facilities to increase their capacity or efficiency. The process uses the exhaust from combustion turbines to make steam, which powers existing turbine generators. According to studies, repowering may reduce a plant’s pollution by 90 percent and possibly double or even triple the power output.

Elected officials, environmentalists, and citizens have been calling for Long Island’s old, outdated power plants to be repowered for years. Even former LIPA chief executive and president Richard Kessel said he supported repowering, but so far not one megawatt has been repowered on Long Island.

LIPA’s new chief, Kevin Law, has the challenge of coming up with new ideas and new strategies to keep our lights on, while keeping our rates down. Repowering can do precisely that.

Repowering saves ratepayers significantly because it makes plants more efficient. As a homeowner, when your boiler is old and inefficient, you waste money every day. When you upgrade your boiler, you see savings immediately. That’s what repowering would do for Long Island’s energy system. It uses less gas and oil, so we could reduce our consumption of these expensive fossil fuels.

The KeySpan/National Grid merger deal includes several references to repowering. One is that National Grid will conduct an engineering study on the Northport and Port Jefferson power plants and invest in pollution-reducing technologies for them. The deal also gave LIPA the option of purchasing the E.F. Barrett power plant in Island Park and the Far Rockaway plant, for the purposes of repowering.

LIPA, which has until the end of next May to act on this option, should take it. Repowering Barrett will significantly reduce pollution. According to a study by the Center for Management Analysis at C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University, repowering Barrett can result in 84 percent less carbon dioxide emissions, 92 percent less nitrogen oxide, 88 percent less sulfur oxide and 51 percent fewer air particulates.

Illnesses caused or exacerbated by pollution kill tens of thousands of Americans yearly. Power-plant pollution leads to costly health care expenses due to the tiny particulates that are released by the plants. They get into the respiratory system and cause upper respiratory problems including asthma, which most negatively affects children and the elderly. Many residents living by power plants complain of soot on their cars every morning. This same soot is getting into people’s lungs every day.

Pollution also contributes to global warming. The carbon dioxide traps greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, causing global warming.

Long Island is quite vulnerable to the effects of global warming because we are surrounded by water – it is our coastal areas that will be most affected by global climate change and rising sea levels. Global warming also contributes to more frequent and more powerful storms, which will challenge Long Island’s defenses. Many experts believe that the Island is woefully unprepared for a severe hurricane.

In addition to significantly reducing pollution, repowering the Barrett plant could help lower taxes for residents who live nearby. Because the community would have to endure having the plant expand its megawatt production, it might be able to receive additional revenue from LIPA in the form of payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs), according to LIPA officials.

So for the people of Island Park and surrounding areas, repowering the Barrett power plant is a win-win – for their health, for their community and possibly even for their taxes.

LIPA, under the leadership of Kevin Law, has a great opportunity to help Long Island by moving on the option to purchase E.F. Barrett. Let’s repower Barrett and keep the lights on, lower pollution and reduce our fuel costs.
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