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Port Jeff board approves firm to explore economic impact

Will determine effect of plant tax revenue loss on region

The study will explore the effect a loss of tax revenue from the Port Jefferson power plant, pictured above from the harbor, would have on the village and the surrounding region. File photo
September 26, 2012 | 05:58 PM
Port Jefferson Board of Trustees unanimously approved spending up to $25,000 on an economic impact study to determine how a closure of the Port Jefferson power plant would affect both the village and the region.

Boston-based London Economics will perform the study. The consulting firm has experience testifying before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the body with which Port Jefferson Village filed a complaint against National Grid, operator of the local power plant, regarding its business practices.

The Grassroots Committee to Repower Port Jefferson asked the village board and the school board during the summer to perform a study to assess the effect a loss of revenue would have on the village, the town, the school district and the entire region.

These municipalities, which receive tax revenue from the local power plant, face a potential loss of funds, as the power supply agreement between the Long Island Power Authority and National Grid expires in May 2013. Local groups, such as the Grassroots Committee, have strongly pushed for the plant to be repowered, saying it will keep it a viable source of both energy and revenue. The future of the plant remains unclear.

When the Grassroots Committee asked at a July Board of Trustees meeting that an economic impact study be performed, residents agreed it could help show that the issue affects everyone in the region, including in areas such as the economy, energy prices and housing.

Bruce Miller, co-chair of the Grassroots Committee, said the loss of revenue "will, of course, affect Port Jefferson negatively but it will also affect the surrounding areas," including Mount Sinai, Port Jefferson Station, the Three Village area and beyond.

Although the board approved the maximum payment for London Economics at its Sept. 24 business meeting, other local entities that have a stake in the success of the plant have been asked to contribute both for the study and for other power plant-related costs, such as consultants and attorneys. Mayor Margot Garant said it is proposed that they pay in proportion to how much tax revenue they receive from the plant.

Power plant revenue funds roughly 40 percent of the school district's budget. Board of Education President Kathleen Brennan said in a phone interview Tuesday that the board is considering helping the village with the funding of the power campaign and that the issue will be discussed at the next school board meeting.

Robert Goykin, director of the Port Jefferson Free Library, said the library's Board of Trustees voted on Monday night to contribute to the effort. He said the library receives 4.95 percent of the total tax revenue from the power plant, and so it will contribute that percentage of the costs for the economic impact study and other efforts.

Miller expressed satisfaction with the village board's decision to engage London Economics to perform the economic impact study. He said, "This is a very positive step."

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