By Danny Schrafel
Power to the people.
That’s the mission, town officials say, of a new committee formed at Tuesday’s Town Board meeting that will solicit input from local leaders on what it would take to overhaul the Northport Power Station.
Creation of the nine-member Repower Now Citizens Committee, sponsored by Supervisor Frank Petrone and Councilman Mark Cuthbertson, comes on the heels of a directive in the state’s 2015-2016 budget for PSEG Long Island, which manages the Northport plant, to complete an engineering, environmental permitting and cost feasibility study related to upgrading – commonly referred to as repowering – the plant by Oct. 1, 2018.
Petrone said Tuesday that the committee will serve an advisory role and “present some really good factual information for us to continue our fight to get Northport repowered.”
“It’s logical just in the fact that it produces 27 percent of the power through the entire grid system there. It also has land available if there were a need to expand, and it has been upkept and is a good operating plant,” Petrone said. “That, coupled with some of the scientific information that we would need and some of the professional engineering information we would need, we would have an opportunity to have a group convene with a white paper for the town.”
The committee will include at least one representative from the villages of Northport and Asharoken, one from the Northport-East Northport School District and members with engineering and sustainable energy backgrounds. Petrone said he hopes to convene the committee by the fall, and is hopeful that a document will be produced by year’s end.
Once convened, the committee “will allow local residents to provide input in formulating the RFP to select a proposal for preparation of the feasibility study and to contribute additional factors and elements that should be considered” in the PSEG repowering study that produces the feasibility report, town spokesman A.J. Carter said.
In that study, PSEG will “focus on repowering utilizing greater efficiency and environmentally friendly technologies,” said Huntington spokesman A.J. Carter. The results of those studies must be turned over to the board of the Long Island Power Authority and the Long Island branch of the state Department of Public Service within 18 months of the analysis’ completion, according to the budget resolution.
Town and state officials have supported repowering the plant for environmental and economic reasons, and said that an agreement to repower could be a means of settling a legal impasse between the town and LIPA, for whom PSEG took over power operations on Jan. 1, 2014, related to the plant’s assessment.
Petrone has offered to freeze the plant’s assessment if improvements are made that increase power generation at the facility. LIPA sued the town in October 2010, seeking a 90 percent reduction in the property’s assessed value, which town officials said would devastate taxpayers in Northport and beyond. The town countersued in May 2010, arguing LIPA violated a 1997 agreement not to challenge the plant’s assessment.
“You’re improving the plant. You’re improving its value. If you’re improving its value, that has taxable value,” Petrone said. “That is a negotiable item. I have said publicly that I’ll work with you to repower, to improve, and we’ll freeze your tax levy rate.”
Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R-E. Northport), a longtime advocate for repowering the Northport plant, said he’s ready to work with the group.
Raia said that he put forth legislation – which passed in the Senate but was not adopted in the Assembly – that would advance the PSEG repowering study in Northport to October 2015.
Similarly, State Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) proposed legislation that would create a task force similar to the town’s committee at the state level, but that stalled in the Assembly.
Cuthbertson said that the committee could serve as a catalyst for advancing state legislation.
PSEG spokeswoman Elizabeth Flagler said in a statement Tuesday the utility is “dedicated to providing” its customers “with resilient, reliable power while maintaining rate stability.”