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LIPA tax challenge case is headed back to court in July

A state judge allows into evidence about 500 pages of documents to support LIPA's claim for a lower assessment on the Northport power plant.

LIPA is challenging the taxes levied by Huntington

LIPA is challenging the taxes levied by Huntington Town on the National Grid-owned Northport power plant. Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

LIPA’s effort to lower the taxes it pays to Huntington Town for the Northport power station is headed back to court later this summer after a state Supreme Court justice allowed into evidence Wednesday hundreds of pages of documents to support the utility’s case for a significantly lower plant assessment.

LIPA had rested its case on Tuesday in the trial over the assessment of the plant, and Huntington had called its first witness when Justice Elizabeth Hatlitt Emerson ruled Wednesday to allow some 500 pages of documents that backed the utility’s claim for a plant assessment as low as $198 million.

Huntington, which had sought to block admission of the documents and used their absence to criticize LIPA engineering reports as incomplete, has assessed the plant at $3.4 billion, for which LIPA pays annual taxes of $84 million. LIPA has offered a settlement that would cut those taxes to $42 million over nine years. Huntington thus far has rejected the offer.

“I would say we’ve had some setbacks with the judge’s most recent decision,” said Lou Lewis, an outside attorney for the town. “We’re going to try to work around it by further examination of their engineering witness.”

The trial, which began in late February, is now expected to restart in late July.

LIPA general counsel Anna Chacko called recent developments in the case “progress,” but noted that an end to the case may be far off. “It’s a long game,” she said. “Technicalities are going to require time before we can proceed with the trial. One step at a time, [but] we keep moving forward.”

After two weeks of testimony and cross examination of LIPA engineering and other experts, on Tuesday lawyers for Huntington called their first witness, who sought to make a case for the plant’s high value by noting its reliability at a time when the Indian Point nuclear power station in Westchester is to close by 2022 and intermittent resources such as solar and wind-energy are slated for expansion.

The Northport plant is a “key resource, a key factor in reliability on Long Island,” said Dr. Roger H. Bezdek, an economist and energy expert at Management Information Services in Oakton, Virginia, who presented two reports on the plant’s importance. Northport. he said, is a “sited, highly functional reliable power plant in an area that doesn’t have a lot of other options.”

But Mark Lansing, an outside attorney for LIPA, took aim at projections and findings in the reports, noting that Bezdek relied primarily on outside sources for his figures, rather than his own calculations. “Your entire report is the work product of other people,” Lansing said. 

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