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Albany bid to 'repower' old plants could help LI

A Port Jefferson steam power plant is one

A Port Jefferson steam power plant is one of three on Long Island that could benefit from a proposed upgrade incentive. Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin, 2010

ALBANY -- A key state senator introduced legislation Tuesday that would give new life to antiquated power plants statewide, including three steam generators on Long Island that face an uncertain future as cleaner and more efficient plants come online.

Sen. George Maziarz (R-Niagara), chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, said the plan would "give the plants some incentives to be able to repower to a cleaner operating fuel."

Among the enticements: a "Clean Fuel Repowering Tax Credit" to allow any power plant that can meet 2011 environmental standards to receive a 12.5 percent tax credit for needed upgrades.

"From Long Island to Western New York and everywhere in between, communities are facing a major crisis caused by the potential loss of power generation, jobs and tax revenue," Maziarz said.

Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) has been advocating for a 1950s-era plant in his district that residents and local officials would like to see revamped so that it continues to fuel the local economy. Port Jefferson Village, the school district and Brookhaven Town receive some $29 million annually in taxes for hosting the plant. Use of the plant has decreased significantly as newer sources like the Caithness Energy Center in Yaphank have come online.

In a statement, LaValle said that while Maziarz was addressing problems of upstate coal-fired plants, "I am trying to address the downstate power problem. At some juncture we will all interact with the governor and Assembly in providing the kind of incentives both upstate and downstate communities need."

A spokesman for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said the governor was reviewing the proposal.

Maziarz said the Port Jefferson plant, owned by National Grid and contracted exclusively to the Long Island Power Authority, would be eligible for repowering under the bill, which he said he believes would have "broad-based support." Several upstate communities face closure of old coal-based plants.

Last week, Cuomo's office repeated its support for legislation that would provide incentives to overhaul plants and give relief to communities impacted by a plant's closure.

But not everyone supports repowering. Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said money should be spent on building renewable power sources such as wind and solar.

"Taxpayers subsidizing antiquated, doomed technology is a complete waste of our money," she said. "We can't move into the future by dragging around the ball and chains of the past."

LIPA trustees are set to vote on renewal of a contract for power from the National Grid plants next Tuesday.

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