News Release from the Town of Huntington Council Office- Eugene Cook LIPA TAX CASE
Bloomberg, Bezos and Town of Huntington. What, you may ask, do these three have in common?
Councilman Cook explains about LIPA and National Grid’s failure to obtain required approval to initiate the Northport Power Plant tax challenge.
A New York State Agency, the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) had the ability to stop the plans of Bloomberg, Bezos and LIPA’s plans to renege on promises made regarding property taxes to the Town of Huntington. Unfortunately for the Town of Huntington, PACB only addressed the first two plans. Mayor Bloomberg’s plans for a West Side Stadium were stopped by PACB after a full review process. Jeff Bezos’ Amazon plan for Long Island City was stopped by PACB simply as a result of PACB’s existence as an obstacle to the company’s plans.
LIPA’s plan to use their $5 billion power purchase plan to file a Supreme Court action to challenge real property taxes was not stopped. I wondered why? I spent the last few months looking to find out how LIPA was able to get approvals that Bloomberg and Bezos could not. Long story short, LIPA cheated, they didn’t apply to the PACB for review and approval. LIPA knew if they followed state law and requested permission from PACB in 2010, 2011, and 2012 and thereafter to file the tax challenges using their Power Purchase Agreements with Nat Grid, they would be stopped, just like Bloomberg and Bezos.
In December 2019, I made a FOIL request to the New York Division of the Budget, the oversight arm for the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB). I asked that the response include any and all documents related to the PACB approval of the pending tax certiorari case regarding the Northport Power Plant filed by LIPA and National Grid against the Town of Huntington. I received the Division of Budget’s response, there are no such documents.
WHY WERE THERE NO PACB APPLICATIONS, REVIEW AND APPROVALS OBTAINED BY LIPA PRIOR TO FILING THE TAX CHALLENGE? WHY HAS THIS BEEN HIDDEN FROM THE COURT? THIS IS THE QUESTION THAT EVERY RESIDENT THROUGHOUT HUNTINGTON SHOULD BE ASKING THE TOWN SUPERVISOR, TOWN BOARD MEMBERS AND ALL PUBLIC OFFICIALS RESPONSIBLE FOR SAFEGUARDING THE PUBLIC. ALL PUBLIC OFFICIALS SHOULD DEMAND THE COURTS HOLD LIPA AND NATIONAL GRID ACCOUNTABLE FOR THIS DECEPTION.
Why aren’t the standards of the Public Authorities Law, created to restrict the ability of state authorities to inflict this type of damage on the local taxpayer, being followed?
Under the New York Public Authorities Law 1020 B subdivision 12-a (i) (ii) and (iii), LIPA using the Power Purchase Agreements between LIPA and Nat Grid to commence a tax challenge is a modification of use requiring PACB approval. One of the considerations for PACB if an application is made is the impact on local real property taxes in the LIPA service area (Public Authorities Law 1020 F (aa) 2).
This issue was discussed at the Public Comment portion of the LIPA Board of Trustees meeting of February 6, 2020 (from 31 minutes through 35 minutes of the video available at the LIPA website). LIPA CEO Thomas Falcone confirmed, “We seek these (PACB) approvals on necessary projects…as to the tax challenges, a court has ruled on it. This has been adjudicated. It’s over.” To the contrary, the existence of the requirement of PACB approval was never disclosed by LIPA or Nat Grid to the Supreme Court, shame on them. The Court has, to that extent, been unaware of the PACB approval requirement. The Court has been deceived. There is time to remedy that deception, but precious little time.
I ask the Governor and the members of the State Senate and State Assembly to join me, in advocating for the Rule of Law. I ask them to ensure the court understands that the Public Authorities Law was created to restrict the ability of state authorities to inflict this type of damage on the local taxpayer without submitting their nefarious projects to PACB review and oversight. The rules should be followed. The absence of PACB approval means LIPA’s rogue tax challenge cases should be dismissed.
Councilman Edmund Smyth states, “I am open to any option which would lead to a resolution favorable to the Town of Huntington.”
I am pleased to have a statement of support from Senator James Gaughran. “LIPA has launched a full-scale assault against taxpayers across Long Island with reckless tax certiorari challenges in communities from Huntington to Levittown to Island Park. Councilman Gene Cook has brought further concerns related to LIPA’s actions to my attention and I have asked Attorney General James to look into his concerns. I thank Councilman Cook for his unwavering leadership protecting Long Island residents from LIPA’s senseless actions and I will continue fighting alongside him to protect Long Island’s taxpayers.” stated Senator James Gaughran.
Please see the attached FOIL request and response from the New York State Division of Budget and video from last town board meeting on the subject during Public Portion.
Go to 2:07:41 on video to listen to the LIPA argument:
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