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Source: Long Island Press

Advocates Call for Bailout from ‘LIPA-Suction’

BY ERTAN BICER

Posted: January 15, 2009
Originally Published: January 14, 2009

Add to the list of local calls for federal funds this new rallying cry: Bailout the Long Island Power Authority.

A newly formed group calling themselves the Fix LIPA Coalition proposed on Jan. 14 that the federal government wipe clean the $6.6 billion debt that the public utility has, mostly from the construction of the decommissioned Shoreham nuclear power plant. The partnership of environmentalists, civic organizations and small business banded together to ask lawmakers to help LIPA’s ratepayers avoid having to pay off the remainder of that responsibility because the payments make it difficult for the utility to invest in upgrading its power plants, they say. The group dubbed the problem "LIPA-Suction."

“The debt is crushing Long Island ratepayers,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Farmingdale-based Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “Our money is being used to pay for the foolishness of the past instead of planning for our energy needs of the future,” she said, calling the debt “a roadblock to our future."

The Shoreham power plant was deactivated in 1989 after the Long Island Lighting Company agreed that nuclear power was not a viable option on Long Island considering a complete evacuation of the island would be next to impossible in the event of a meltdown. But LIPA, which later replaced LILCO, still is responsible for paying off the never-used power plant.

“We did not ask for this debt, this was brought upon by government agencies but we are still responsible for paying it off,” Esposito said. “The government found a way to help JP Morgan and AIG from mistakes they made, they should find a way to help Long Island from a debt that was forced upon us."

In 1999 the debt was $7 billion and was expected to be paid off by 2013, the group says. Currently, that figure has been paid down to approximately $6.6 billion and the new timetable estimates that the full sum would not be paid off for more than 100 years, according to the advocates.

“Unfortunately LIPA and all of Long Island continues to suffocate under the weight of this bad debt, which prevents them from investing in a secure energy future,” said Shaun Chapman, Executive Director of Vote Solar. “Six billion dollars would go along way towards clean technologies like solar and wind, which would be a breath of fresh air for everyone.”

LIPA President and CEO Kevin Law said in a statement: “I welcome any and all ideas or assistance that Long Island stakeholders have to offer.” The Fix LIPA Coalition plans to address the LIPA board directly at their meeting next week.