Letter: LIPA Returns With a New Assault on Taxpayers

Dear Editor,

Over the last month, the Long Island Power Authority unveiled their second assault against residential and commercial class taxpayers in Nassau & Suffolk County.

The first assault was betraying the position LIPA took in the 1997 Public Authorities Board hearing granting the LILCO takeover. In that administrative proceeding, LIPA guaranteed Governor Pataki (as Chair of Public Authorities Control Board (PACB)) there would be no future tax certiorari cases. Long Island Power Authority guaranteed they would be different from LILCO. Governor Pataki has provided my attorney with an Affirmation stating this promise, and I have attached it for all to see.

The Town of Brookhaven and the Town of Huntington individually capitulated to LIPA’s tax certiorari actions filed despite the Long Island Power Authority promises to Governor Pataki, Senator Bruno and Assembly Speaker Silver. LIPA, as successor to LILCO, is now announcing it will be filing further court actions. These will be challenges to Town Assessors who set the rates the utilities class pays for Transmission and Distribution property throughout Suffolk County. These LIPA demands for a reduction in the taxes will find the state authority and their $700 an hour privately hired attorneys against individual Town Tax Assessors. The latter, without public support, are ill equipped to fight this battle on behalf of the individual residential and commercial taxpayer.

The Northport and Port Jefferson power plants assessment challenges were simply pawns in the continuing game of three level chess, in which LIPA abandons its promises and became the enemy of the residential and commercial taxpayers in Suffolk County. The utilities class decided that they got what they could by instilling public fear as to the consequences of the Northport litigation through persuasion, and public relations efforts. Now they will be going to war, not just against the individual residential and commercial taxpayer in Huntington town, but against all the individual residential and commercial taxpayers in Nassau & Suffolk County.

The utilities have violated Public Authorities Law in every “project” they have undertaken, since LIPA was allowed in that 1997 PACB meeting, to take over LILCO. Under the Public Authorities Law, the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) was created to control LILCO’s worst impulses. The PACB was formed as a security gate, to prevent LIPA from following the example of LILCO, by entering into “projects” such as the multi-billion dollar boondoggle of overpriced energy supply called Shoreham. PACB has an Achilles Heel, that being; LIPA has to submit the “project” to PACB for approval. After a State Supreme Court ordered LIPA to submit the Transenergie Cross Sound Cable project, in 1999, to the PACB for approval, LIPA decided to move forward without submitting the project to PACB for approval. These illegal actions have continued, project after project, for two decades.

I call upon all town governments to understand the rogue nature of the enemy and join to defeat the utility class efforts to undermine the residential and commercial property taxpayers. The residential and commercial class real property owner in Suffolk County votes, and in this case, should be voting their pocketbook. Commenters who believed Suffolk residents had bought “peace in our time” with the rogue LIPA by settling on Northport, wake up this July morning with a warning, and, one would hope, a realization. Governmental leadership matters! The transmission and distribution system on Long Island, will carry the energy produced by the off shore wind farms.

The utilities would like the residential and commercial taxpayers of Suffolk County to allow them to do that with a deep utilities class real property tax discount. Instead, the value of those upgraded lines, and the energy passing through those lines, should greatly benefit the Suffolk residential and commercial taxpayer. This host community for a new energy era demands our value is recognized. LIPA’s efforts to file court actions to diminish the value of the Transmission and Distribution System in Suffolk County is a “project” which requires PACB approval.

The promises made to Governor Pataki and the PACB Board were made in an administrative proceeding with PACB. LIPA prevailed in that proceeding by taking the position they would not be another LILCO and would not file tax certiorari cases. This position statement in an administrative hearing is different from the statements made at a Northport School. The position taken in the administrative hearing has judicial estoppel effect on any other court filing by LIPA. It binds LIPA. Forever.

LIPA started filing tax certiorari cases against specific power stations tax assessments in 2010, under the current Governor. BY 2010, Governor Pataki’s 1997 promises at the public meeting at a Northport school made Governor Pataki appear as a liar. But it wasn’t Pataki. Pataki was long out of office. The courts had the duty to uphold LIPA to its position in the PACB hearing. LIPA by 2010 had become a criminal enterprise. A Moreland Act commission investigating LIPA post Hurricane Sandy found broad institutional corruption and incompetence. It is no surprise, then, that the 2010 LIPA “leadership” authorized a public relations gimmick of challenging tax assessments. It was a gimmick, illegal under the judicial estoppel of the 1997 position taken by LIPA to obtain the LILCO takeover. But someone in government would have to call LIPA out on it. Someone would have to have standing to press that defense in a court proceeding. PACB would have to be invigorated to press LIPA to submit such projects to PACB for review and approval under Public Authorities Law 51, 1020b and 1020f.

I am sending the copy of this letter to every state and local official in Suffolk County, asking you to join me in this fight. In this class warfare initiated by LIPA, I am fighting for the residential class and commercial class taxpayer, to enforce the promises made by LIPA in the 1997 PACB proceeding. The utility class needs to pay its share of the assessment roll under the 1997 PACB approval, of the LIPA takeover of LILCO. End of story. No tax certiorari litigation over power plants or over transmission and distribution assessments. The 1997 PACB approval was meant to prevent another LILCO tax certiorari monster. But that the law has to be understood to exist, and it must be enforced. Please do not hesitate to contact me at (631)351-3174, to schedule a meeting to discuss this fight to protect our residential and commercial taxpayers.

Pataki Affirmation

Gene Cook is a member of the Huntington Town Board.

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