The National Grid-owned Northport power station came under microscopic scrutiny on the first day of testimony in a case that seeks to sharply lower the $82 million in taxes LIPA and its ratepayers shell out each year to Huntington Town, largely for the Northport-East Northport School District.
LIPA’s lawyers pointed to the plant’s 50-year age, the number of employees it takes to operate it (130, compared with 30 for newer plants), and various lower estimates for the cost to replace it in saying the $3.4 billion value for which LIPA currently pays $82 million should be drastically lowered.
“No matter how you do the equation, you end up with a reduction that’s somewhat significant in nature,” LIPA’s outside lawyer, Mark Lansing, said in an opening statement.
LIPA has offered a settlement in which Huntington would receive a 50 percent reduction in the amount of taxes LIPA pays over nine years, but the town and district say such a reduction would “devastate” the community and the district.
Patrick Seely, an outside lawyer for Huntington Town, argued that the Northport power station is important, not just to Long Island but to the state and the Northeast region. While LIPA’s lawyers argued it’s used less than 25 percent of the time, Seely noted it provides 27 percent of the capacity for power on the Island.
“The plant is incredibly important to Long Island,” he said, and it “kept the lights on in New England” during periods of need. “This plant has been a reliable power source for its entire existence."
Joseph Warren, director of the Northport power station, testified that the plant's four 375-megawatt units used natural gas about 95 percent of the time (they can also burn fuel oil) and that it takes 30 hours to get the units up to their minimum output of 100 megawatts when they are started from cold.
Testimony in the case is expected to last through this week and for another week in April.