Expect a power surge in Uniondale Tuesday as the Long Island Power Authority board of trustees votes on a top-level executive transition amid anticipated debates on wind power, the need to upgrade antiquated power plants and a new call for the election of LIPA trustees.
The board is expected to elect chairman Kevin Law to be chief executive, as longtime LIPA chief executive Richard Kessel steps down. Law was appointed by Gov. Eliot Spitzer in January to run LIPA. Kessel, who has run the public utility since 1998, will officially leave office Thursday.
Though it has been a much-discussed topic, the board is not expected to address the issue of a new LIPA chairman, a position that also will be filled by Spitzer. Sources have said that former state energy commissioner James Larocca, who is chairman of the Long Island Regional Planning Board, is the leading candidate for the post, but that it won’t be filled until later in the month.
Either way, the gathering at LIPA headquarters is expected to generate sparks as groups for and against the controversial offshore wind farm gather to advocate their positions at a public forum portion of the meeting. Despite those calls, trustees are scheduled only to discuss the wind farm, not vote on it, according to a LIPA agenda released yesterday.
Such advocacy groups as Wind Works Long Island have been urging members to attend the meeting in the aftermath of Law’s decision in August to terminate the project. “Let your voice be heard,” read a late-September bulletin to members. “If you cannot attend the meeting, we urge you to write a letter to the LIPA Board of Trustees and let them know that you support clean energy!”
Meanwhile, members of the Save Jones Beach group, which strongly opposes the wind farm, also are expected to show up in force to make certain the project remains mothballed.
“Wind-industry lobbyists and groups supported by the wind-farm corporations are planning a last-ditch effort at this meeting to convince Law to change his mind,” read a notice last week from Save Jones Beach. “Please try to attend and speak up against this ill-conceived project that could become [Long Island’s] Shoreham II.”
Proponents of the wind farm have been pointing to LIPA’s finding that the $811-million project would cost ratepayers a premium of only $2.50 a month. But Martin Cantor, executive director of the Long Island Economic and Social Policy Institute, yesterday questioned LIPA’s math, saying that “green premium” failed to account for the total cost of the 40-turbine project over the 20-year life span.
He also pointed to an acknowledgment from the researcher Pace Global Energy Services that the project’s costs would likely rise above $811 million before it was built. Cantor estimated that power from the project would be 99 cents a kilowatt hour, in addition to the $2.50 premium, or roughly six times higher than standard power. “It’s not economically viable, no matter how you slice it,” he said.
At the same time, Repower Long Island, a group that advocates upgrading the region’s aging fleet of dirty plants to newer clean-burning facilities, will hold a press conference before the trustees meeting to announce that a broad coalition of legislators, business groups and environmentalists have signed a statement supporting repowering. They will urge LIPA to conduct a study on repowering.
Some members of the Wind Works for Long Island group also are expected to urge trustees to consider a proposal that would see LIPA trustees elected to their posts rather than appointed by the governor and state legislators. Law has said he would be open to examining such a proposal.
Asked last week if he’d consider running for such a spot, Kessel, a die-hard proponent of the wind farm, said in an e-mail, “I never say never.”
By Mark Harrington
2 October 2007
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