LIPA To Town: More Time Likely Won’t Help Your Decision
Promptly five days after Town of Huntington officials urged the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) board of trustees to extend the Oct. 20 deadline of a settlement offer proposed by the utility in June, LIPA issued a response which cast doubt on whether added time would make a difference.
Supervisor Frank Petrone, with backing from the town board, submitted a request Oct. 15 that asked for a three-month extension to consider LIPA’s offer, which expired Sunday and sought to settle a legal dispute over the assessment of the Northport power plant, currently valued at over $3 billion.
Also involved in a tax certiorari lawsuit with LIPA, the Northport-East Northport School District, in a separate yet similar request, asked the LIPA board to give their attorneys until Jan. 15 2014 to decide on the offer.
“The tax certiorari proceedings…have been pending for several years now, and the issues…are not new,” LIPA counsel Lynda Nicolino writes in a letter to Town Attorney Cindy Elan-Mangano. “It is not likely that a few additional weeks will make a difference. Nevertheless, I remain available to consider any and all information you would like to produce and to discuss this matter further at your convenience.”
LIPA spokeswoman Elizabeth Flagler said on Tuesday that LIPA will not extend the original deadline and that “litigation will proceed;” however Nicolino in the letter said she will “remain available to… discuss the matter further.”
According to town spokesman A.J. Carter, Petrone, after reviewing LIPA’s letter Monday night, said he is willing to “sit down with LIPA” but is waiting on pertinent information from the utility before making a decision.
However, Nicolino repeatedly says in the letter that added time and documentation are not required for the town to make an informed decision on the offer. Rather, Nicolino states the town is “fully familiar” with the issues and has expended “a significant amount of resources,” including the pursuit of additional litigation against both LIPA and National Grid, which owns the Northport plant.
“To date, your client [the town] has offered nothing but public rejection of the offer, and a veiled claim that settlement cannot be achieved without the production of documents by LIPA,” Nicolino writes to Elan-Mangano.
According to John Gross, the school district’s legal counsel, while LIPA’s letter does not explicitly grant or deny an extension, the issue is instead “left open” at the end of the letter.
In June, when Cuomo introduced legislation that restructured LIPA and transferred utility operations to PSEG, the town launched a “Stop The LIPA Tax Hike” petition that asked the governor to include language in his bill that would protect the town from tax certiorari proceedings in court. While the governor’s legislation failed to address the town’s request, a petition addressed to the governor, available on the town’s website, has been signed by 11,254 residents since the summer.