LIPA vote may be postponed amid reform talk

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment speaks during a news conference at Farmingdale State College to announce the results of the Long Island Clean Electricity Vision study. (Sept. 4, 2012) (Credit: Amanda Voisard)

Community and environmental groups that have begun to take sides on newly proposed power projects for LIPA may find an unlikely ally in Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and his plan to overhaul the authority.

Long Island Power Authority trustees this month were expected to vote to authorize LIPA to contract for up to 2,500 megawatts of new power from an array of gas-fired plants, cables, a wind farm and batteries.

But that vote is expected to be postponed until at least next month, according to sources close to LIPA and its trustees, as Cuomo works to reform an agency his administration has described as "bloated."

"I think obviously it's an unsettled situation," said William Moore, chief executive of Deepwater Wind, which has a proposal to connect a planned wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island to Long Island via a cable at Shoreham.

For some, the expected delay is welcome. At a forum at Farmingdale State College Tuesday, proponents of a plan that would see the LIPA grid powered solely by green-energy sources by 2030 said LIPA would be making a "mistake" if it didn't take their all-renewables vision into account.

Peter Maniscalco, of Manorville, who led opposition to the Shoreham nuclear plant 34 years ago and opposes a new proposal to put a gas-fired plant at Shoreham by 2017, called for a moratorium on new power decisions by LIPA. "To go forward with fossil-fuel-based plants makes no sense," said Maniscalco, who conceived the idea of the all-renewables study.

But power plant proponents have other ideas. J-Power USA, the Japanese-owned company that is proposing the Shoreham plant, said it expects any reforms at LIPA to follow long after power contracts are awarded. "We're just assuming that [Cuomo's reform] is kind of in the future and hoping the new-generation [proposal] is approaching a resolution," said Steve Thome, vice president of J-Power. "I'd assume anything the governor will do may be in the next fiscal year."

A separate proposal for a 400-megawatt gas-fired plant near in Kings Park has also spurred opposition. Linda Henninger, president of the Kings Park Neighbors' Association, said the group, which successfully opposed a plant there more than a decade ago, will oppose the new plant. "They are just going to run into the same amount of community opposition the last time they tried to site a plant in the same area," she said. "It was wrong then; it's wrong now."

Trustees are expected to vote later this month on a renewal of the contract for the 15 National Grid plants on Long Island, with an option to overhaul several of them. Port Jefferson Village, which has filed a complaint with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission requesting an investigation of National Grid, has also called for a moratorium on all energy project awards. It wants the Port Jefferson Power Station, owned by National Grid, to undergo a complete overhaul.

Cuomo last month said he wanted LIPA to return to its original mission as an advocacy, oversight and holding company, and officials have hinted that energy decisions at LIPA could be shifted to the New York Power Authority. Last week, Cuomo spokesman Joshua Vlasto said, "We are reviewing the structure and function of LIPA and options to improve service and lower costs."

LIPA spokesman Mark Gross said the authority "will work on the two issues [reform and new power] separately, but we will coordinate the efforts where appropriate." He added, "We will make every attempt to stay on schedule."

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