Appeals Court Sides With District, Town Against LIPA

By Carl Corry

Pictured: The Northport power plant.

Pictured: The Northport power plant.

The Town of Huntington and the Northport-East Northport School District won separate but similar rulings in a state appellate court July 29 giving them the ability to continue fighting LIPA’s attempt to substantially reduce the Northport power plant’s tax assessment.

In unanimous rulings, the four-judge court agreed with a lower court ruling that former LIPA Chairman Richard Kessel and former Gov. George Pataki promised not to challenge taxes on the Northport plant back in 1997 and that the town and school district are intended third-party beneficiaries. That status enables them to move forward with breach-of-contract suits filed in 2011 against LIPA after the authority filed tax challenges on the plant, which is operated by National Grid.

“This allows us to take a deposition of Chairman Kessel, go through thousands of pages of National Grid documents and allows us to continue to push LIPA in a sense of holding them to the promise that they made the Town of Huntington,” said Stuart Besen, an attorney representing the town in the matter.

Besen said his plan is to make a summary judgment motion or go to trial in Supreme Court.

John H. Gross, an attorney with Ingerman Smith in Hauppauge who represents the school district, said, “We are extremely pleased by the decision. It reaffirms the district’s role in this and shows that promises were made by both Gov. Pataki and chairman of LIPA not to file such a claim.”

LIPA has the option to file an appeal with the New York State Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, but Gross said that is often very difficult after losing in two lower courts. It would need permission to file.

A LIPA spokesman could not be reach at deadline.