Councilman Wants Town To Acquire Power Plant

By Connor Beach

Councilman Eugene Cook announced in a video last week in front of the Northport Power Plant his proposal to acquire the plant using eminent domain.

Councilman Eugene Cook announced in a video last week in front of the Northport Power Plant his proposal to acquire the plant using eminent domain.

A Huntington councilman wants the town to take over the Northport Power Plant and establish the Huntington Power Authority.

Councilman Eugene Cook’s plan comes in the midst of an ongoing legal battle between the town and Long Island Power Authority over the appraised value of the property the plant operates upon.

The town’s tax certiorari trial against LIPA is scheduled to begin June 11.

Cook said in a press release that he plans to sponsor a resolution at next week’s town board meeting that, if approved, will schedule a public hearing on his proposal.

Cook claims the town can acquire the plant via eminent domain procedure law.

The plant is owned by National Grid and under contact to the Long Island Power Authority.

Under that contract, LIPA pays all costs to run the plant, including property taxes and provides fuel. In exchange, the utility receives all the electricity and electric market revenues.

LIPA currently pays $80 million annually in property taxes on the property based on the town’s $3.8 billion valuation.

However, in 2010, the utility challenged the assessment in an attempt to drastically reduce the appraised value of the property and, as a result, the taxes it pays on the property.

According to Cook, LIPA has argued in court the assessment should be closer to $200 million. Cook, however, claims the current $3.8 billion valuation undervalues the property.

“When I saw that I said, ‘That’s absolutely ridiculous.’ For the money they say it’s worth, I believe the Town of Huntington should purchase the plant,” Cook said. He added that, although he is still seeking expert opinions, he believes the plan is “something that needs to be discussed.”

The councilman also wants Gov. Andrew Cuomo to intervene. “The governor should step in and abolish LIPA and say enough with the predators,” Cook said.

Supervisor Chad Lupinacci distanced himself and the town from Cook’s plan in a statement emailed Tuesday.

“While each member of the town board is entitled to their opinion on how to resolve the LIPA tax matter, this proposal comes from one member of our five-member board,” Lupinacci said. “It is inaccurate to say the town is considering this proposal as it has not been approved by the supervisor’s office nor has it been fully reviewed by the town attorney’s office.”

Lupinacci added, “The town is in litigation with LIPA and we are using all legal options at our disposal to hold LIPA and National Grid to their contractual obligation to the town’s taxpayers.”

LIPA is also challenging the taxes it pays at National Grid-operated power plants in Port Jefferson, Island Park and Glenwood Landing. The utility is nearing a tax settlement with the Town of Brookhaven regarding the Port Jefferson plant, and is urging Huntington to follow suit.

A statement issued Tuesday by the utility said, “We hope the town will join other local communities on Long Island that are working with LIPA to reach a fair settlement offer that puts an unsustainable property tax situation at the Northport plant back on sustainable path.”