The Long Island Power Authority said Wednesday that it will seek a court ruling on its tax claimon the Northport power plant after the Town Board voted Tuesday night to push a vote on the matter to the end of September.
“LIPA has no choice but to ask the Court to move this decade-old case forward on behalf of our customers. The Court will determine the fair taxes LIPA customers will pay on the plant based on the law. The plant – once a workhorse facility for Long Island – is over 50 years old and rapidly declining in usage and value. It simply costs too much to operate, and the current taxes are no longer sustainable as we transition to clean fuels to meet Long Island’s energy future. Notably, on the same day the Town Board demonstrated it does not have the votes to settle this litigation, the State of New York announced a procurement for an additional 2,500 megawatts of offshore wind to be connected to the regional electric grid, further displacing the output of aging, high-cost facilities like the Northport power plant,” LIPA spokesman Sid Nathan said.
“As part of settlement discussions, LIPA agreed to hold its settlement offer open for two additional Town Board meetings… By contrast, the Huntington Town Board indicated at its July 21 meeting that it will not meet the time frame agreed to by the parties. LIPA affirms that it will honor its commitment to keep its offer open through August 11. Unlike the Board of Education, only one member of the Town Board has publicly supported the settlement. In contrast, two Board members are strongly opposed and continue to rally opposition to the agreement, file frivolous lawsuits, and propose unrealistic solutions like taking ownership of the plant through eminent domain. It is plain to see that, unlike the Board of Education, the Town Board does not have the votes today for the settlement negotiated by its representatives and may never have the votes.”
Councilman Gene Cook, who has filed suit and promoted the idea of a town takeover of the plant, called LIPA a “criminal entity” and said it was “using the government to shroud itself” because it is a quasi-government agency. “It is time to put a stop to it,” Cook said.
The Huntington Town Board Tuesday scheduled a vote on a settlement in the LIPA tax case for Sept.29, seven weeks after the deadline the utility set to accept the deal.
The Town Board’s decision came the day after the Northport Board of Education voted 6-1 to accept the settlement to end the long-running case involving the utility’s demand to significantly reduce the taxes its pays on the Northport power plant.
Councilman Gene Cook said last week that he wanted a public forum on Sept. 16 but the Town Board added another forum for Aug. 10, the day before LIPA’s deadline. During the discussion of those two dates, Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci said the board needed to schedule a vote in addition to the two forums. “It’s very good that we’re going to be having public forums,” Lupinacci. “This is the most serious court case since 1653,” he said, referring to the founding of the town. “Obviously there was a deadline and could be misconstrued,” he said.
Cook objected and complained that Lupinacci had previously agreed to the resolution without the vote requirement and challenged the supervisor to vote against it.
Town Councilmen Edmund Smyth and Mark Cuthbertson both raised questions about LIPA’s deadline. And Town Councilwoman Joan Cergol said, “We’ll have two bites at the apple as the supervisor is suggesting, so that we don’t end up getting this settlement pulled from the table.”
The resolution setting the three dates passed 5-0. The two forums would be held in a public space but also be available on Zoom.
Paul Darrigo, who had led some of the original opposition against LIPA but ultimately agreed with the settlement, said on Facebook, “Town Council voted 5-0 to hold two public hearings on the LIPA settlement. One in August and one in September. And a vote date of 9/29 was also scheduled. Councilman Smyth and Councilman Cuthbertson expressed only mild concern that the vote date was scheduled over a month after the LIPA-imposed 8/11 deadline expires. We’ll see where this takes us. I’ll be waiting for a call from someone in the Town telling me why this was a good idea. I appreciate the need for a public hearing. I don’t understand why they would be so cavalier about the deadline.”
Town attorney Nicholas Ciappetta did not immediately respond to a question about whether the town had discussed the timing of the vote.