Port Jefferson power plant plan progress seen

LIPA power plants towers are seen at sunset

LIPA power plants towers are seen at sunset over Port Jefferson's harbor. (Oct. 28, 2010) (Credit: Newsday/Jessica Rotkiewicz)

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's administration Thursday underscored its support for a proposal that would help defray the costs of overhauling antiquated power plants -- one week after his staff met with a Long Island contingent intent on "repowering" the 1950s-era Port Jefferson Power Station.

The developments come as Long Island Power Authority trustees are expected to vote Oct. 2 to renew a long-term contract with National Grid that would include the option to upgrade, called repowering, certain plants. LIPA would still need to conduct thorough reviews of the costs of the work to make sure it was in the interests of ratepayers.

The developments suggest Port Jefferson is making headway in its effort to keep the plant available as an important economic base. Just under half of the Port Jefferson school district's budget comes from a $29 million tax payment LIPA makes as a "host" payment for the plant.

Mayor Margot Garant said she and three other officials left the meeting with Cuomo's staff last week feeling "very encouraged" about the prospect of the plant's eventual overhaul. LIPA could move ahead with a study on repowering's feasibility next year. LIPA spokesman Mark Gross declined to comment.

Cuomo's office indicated it intends to work with the framework of legislation introduced earlier this year to encourage repowering.

"We're going to continue to pursue these proposals as part of our overall energy policy," spokesman Rich Azzopardi said of the bill, which would use funds from a Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to support the plant fixes.

The Port Jefferson contingent also met with Assemb. Kevin Cahill, chairman of the Assembly Energy Committee, who intends to "make [repowering-enabling proposals] a legislative priority," according to a top Cahill aide. Cahill will hold a hearing on Long Island on Oct. 9 to discuss repowering options, among other topics.

Separately, Howard Glaser, Cuomo's director of state operations and a senior policy adviser, said the administration had hired a team of people to work on reforms at the Long Island Power Authority. It's unclear when it will be finished.

Glaser, at a briefing with Cuomo on Wednesday, said LIPA's new contract with grid management company PSEG, which will take effect in January 2014, "gives us an opportunity to rethink the relationship between LIPA and its contractors."

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