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LIPA will not buy Barrett power plant in Island Park

The Long Island Power Authority will not buy the E.F. Barrett power plant in Island Park, officials said Friday, in a decision that almost certainly means LIPA will not buy any other of the 16 Long Island plants being offered by National Grid.

The decision throws into question LIPA's potential involvement in a major overhaul of the antiquated Barrett unit and other National Grid power plants. LIPA chief Kevin Law said it just wasn't feasible to buy and own the Island Park plant given LIPA's towering $7 billion debt, and said he hasn't seen any evidence to convince him that owning the other plants would be worth it.

"We can't make a compelling financial business case to acquire it," Law said, even if it were offered for free (the price exceeded $70 million). "We don't have the flexibility to add more debt to the books."

He vowed that LIPA would invest more in renewable energy and conservation, and forestall the need for a new plant, even as he said LIPA will eventually have to look at "ramping down" some older plants now in use.

A longtime proponent of overhauling Barrett said she was disappointed by LIPA's decision.

"It's a very unfortunate thing for the environment, but it's also the most responsible thing for LIPA to do in these economic times," said Lisa Tyson, director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition in Massapequa. Asked what she thought the chances of LIPA buying and funding the other plants were, Tyson said, "Zero."

A business group hailed the news. "Saying no to Barrett is the first step away from a fossil-fuel based energy system and economy, which will allow us to say yes to dramatic increases in energy-conservation and renewable energy investments," said Peter Maniscalco, chairman of Action Long Island's LIPA/National Grid affairs committee.

If, as some observers have indicated, National Grid were to sell the plants to others once LIPA says no, the decision could also mean longtime Long Island plants will have new owners.

The New York Power Authority and FPL Energy, which already has three LIPA contracts, are considered possible buyers. National Grid declined to say whether Barrett and the other plants will be offered to other potential buyers.

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