Hempstead Town Councilman Anthony D’Esposito and Receiver of Taxes Don Clavin today called upon LIPA to take meaningful steps toward averting a property tax crisis for residents of the Island Park Union-Free School District by reconsidering its recent decision not to repower its E. F. Barrett facility located along the town’s south shore. Repowering Barrett would help preserve the facility’s property tax assessment. At the same time, D’Esposito and Clavin, joined by school officials, Island Park Village representatives and local homeowners, renewed calls for Nassau County’s Assessment Department to vigorously oppose the utility’s property tax challenge, which seeks to reduce Barrett’s PILOT/property tax assessment by 90 percent. The Town Councilman and Receiver of Taxes stated that if LIPA prevailed in the tax certiorari process, local homeowners could be slammed with average property tax increases of $3,000 annually. Finally, the officials renewed their support of the Island Park School District’s litigation, which seeks to stop LIPA’s property tax assessment challenge for the Barrett Plant.
“LIPA’s pursuit of a property tax challenge associated with the E.F. Barrett Power Plant in Island Park is heartless and threatens the very viability of this working class community,” stated D’Esposito. “We believe there are genuine options that could work for both LIPA and local residents, preserving the level of support that currently exists for the area’s property tax base.”
Specifically, D’Esposito is strongly urging LIPA and PSEGLI (Public Service Enterprise Group Long Island) to commission a new study to re-examine projected energy needs over the next 20 years with an open mind regarding the repowering of the Barrett Plant. The Councilman called a new study logical and warranted in view of the fact that a recent PSEG study, which was released in April of 2017, reversed LIPA’s long-standing position that Barrett should be repowered to meet significantly increasing energy demands that energy experts at local utilities projected over the next couple of decades.
The necessity of a Barrett repower with a new clean and reliable natural gas facility was evidenced just a few years ago when National Grid made an application for a “Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need” to the state Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment. In fact, as far back as 2013, National Grid officials met with town staff to discuss how the town could help expedite the permitting process for a Barrett repower project. Unfortunately, National Grid needs LIPA’s approval for any repowering project.
After years of publicly expressing concern about our region’s ability to meet electric demand over time, and predictions that energy demands would grow exponentially over the next 20 years, the 2017 PSEG report concluded (against all conventional wisdom) that electric supplies on Long Island were sufficient to meet growing needs for the next 18 years, at least.
“It defies logic to believe that the projections of energy experts and conventional wisdom regarding exponentially increasing energy needs have been completely dismissed in one report,” stated D’Esposito. “It’s time for LIPA and PSEG to re-examine Long Island’s energy needs and the vulnerabilities of our energy grid in making a more thoughtful and well-reasoned decision on repowering Barrett.”
New York State’s administration has taken a decided turn away from natural gas driven energy production in favor of very expensive and weather dependent “green energy” alternatives. In fact, the renewable energy options that are being explored would occupy thousands of acres and be fueled by wind and sunshine, to the virtual exclusion of new reliable, clean natural gas facilities that should be incorporated into a Barrett repower, alongside renewable energy projects. D’Esposito indicated that Long Island’s energy users should not be exposed to the vulnerabilities of weather dependent energy to the exception of reliable energy generation at the Island Park power facility.
“The repowering of the Barrett Plant would produce a new, clean, 21st century energy center that would reduce emissions, significantly cut greenhouse gases and—because of its operational flexibility and faster start times—enhance the integration of renewable energy sources like those supported by the state’s administration,” said the Councilman. “LIPA should immediately withdraw its tax assessment challenge as it conducts a thorough re-examination of future energy needs and a newly upgraded power facility at Barrett.”
At the same time as D’Esposito and Clavin called upon LIPA and PSEG to renew its study of the region’s future energy needs and the prospective repowering of Barrett, the officials urged the Nassau County Department of Assessment to seek dismissal of LIPA’s tax certiorari proceeding. The town representatives said that the consequences of a 90 percent reduction in Barrett’s property tax assessment, which is being sought by LIPA, would have a devastating effect on the Island Park community. In fact, Island Park Union-Free School District officials have estimated average property tax increases of 72 percent or $3,000 if LIPA were to be granted the 90 percent assessment reduction being pursued for the Barrett facility.
“Island Park taxpayers don’t deserve to be slammed with 72 percent property tax increases by a callous and uncaring power authority,” said Clavin. “These homeowners have been hit with millions of dollars in recovery costs when their hometown was swamped by Hurricane Sandy. This tax reduction scheme by LIPA will lower the utility’s costs if successful, but it will simultaneously destroy a lovely middle-class community that can ill-afford another devastating financial hit to the taxpayers’ wallets.”
Finally, D’Esposito and Clavin “called out” LIPA for breaking a longstanding commitment to maintain property tax (PILOT) support for the local community and for failing to honor an agreement that the utility would not challenge its assessment. The agreement, which dates back to 1997, is an element in a lawsuit that is being waged by the school district. The officials cited a 2017 Annual Report on Property Tax Reduction Efforts released by LIPA in support of their claims that the utility is aware that it has an obligation to maintain its commitment to the school district’s property tax base.
“It’s clear that LIPA and the utilities with which it contracts have an obligation to the ratepayers and residents who have endured the effects of a major power plant in their backyards for decades,” stated D’Esposito. “It’s time for LIPA to step up, withdraw its tax certiorari case and embark on a new and honest study on our region’s future energy needs. This new report should focus strongly on the efficacy of repowering the Barrett plant for the good of energy users and in furtherance of preserving its financial commitment to the Island Park community.”