The New York State Comptroller’s Office defines a public authority as a corporate instrument of the state, created by the state legislature and established to further public interests of the state. Most public authorities have the power to make decisions and issue bonds on infra-structure projects without voter approval. Unlike state agencies, public authorities operate outside the typical oversight and accountability requirements. They are appointed by elected officials and governed by a board of directors.
According to a previously published article, New York state is using two pubic authorities; the New York State Energy and Research Authority (NYSERDA), and the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), as instruments of the state, which is preparing to approve a plan to install up to 1,430 off shore wind turbines along the south shore of Long Island from Far Rockaway to east of Montauk. This is reported as to being done without both public scrutiny, and without finalizing the contract details.
In 2007, LIPA attempted to mandate construction of wind turbines along the Jones Beach-Fire Island seashore. Persistent residents organized to fight the value, necessity and right to install the turbines, and ultimately prevailed and stopped the project. It was revealed at that time, the project relied heavily on guaranteed federal subsidies per kilowatt which would have increased the profit for that developer, the power production would be intermittent and inefficient, required land based stand by power, eliminated vital fishing grounds, and the spinning turbine blades affected bird mortality and impacted shoreline views.
While those issues and concerns continue remain without resolution, an even more significant and disturbing difference between the current project and the one in 2007 is that this time, New York state is evoking the powers bestowed upon NYSERDA and LIPA, as a public authorities, to manipulate the advancement of the off shore wind turbine project.
The state and the public authorities will now be venturing public resources into a potentially risky financial infra-structure investment. This is due to both costly power purchase agreements and required land based construction to accept the new power source. A project of this magnitude could have Shoreham-like long lasting effects on both debt and electric rates. The location of the turbines could adversely affect the $200 billion a year commerce of the Ports of New York and New Jersey, and impact the productivity of the multi-million dollar fishing and surf clam industry and associated jobs.
The off shore wind turbine power project, when operational, will lace the area with undersea cables. Currently, in order to deliver power to Long Island from neighboring states, LIPA and other electric power providers have installed undersea cables from New Jersey or Connecticut such as Neptune and Cross Sound. Often, these cables fail for a variety of reasons such as simply not being marked on navigation charts or not being properly installed and maintained, leading to months if not years of no service. We, the rate payers, paid for the installation of these cables, and we will pay significantly to get them back to operating as designed.
In contrast to land based power systems, off shore wind power plants deliver no taxes to our municipalities, since there are no properties or buildings for levy tax assessments. If the off shore wind turbines actually reduce the use of traditional plants, the taxable assessments for the plants will be reduced as will the taxes generated by them, resulting in increased property tax burdens on all residential and commercial properties.
Meanwhile, the approved contractor for our Long Island power authority, PSEG, has repeatedly stated that no new generation of power is required, that the power generated by the existing power plants and off island import is ample and sufficient. Yet, the public authorities and the state are insisting to proceed with this risky financial venture without the ability or opportunity for us, the rate payers, to constructively discuss the real short and long effects of this endeavor.
—Phil Healey, president, Biltmore Shores Civic Association