Sunday, March 05, 2006

KeySpan Buyout: Waterfront Implications?

The announcement on Monday, February 27, of a proposed deal for National Grid, a British firm, to purchase KeySpan raises serious questions about the impact such a transaction might have on the Glenwood Landing Waterfront.

Newsday coverage of the proposed deal indicates that many people are asking good questions about how such a transaction might affect rate payers. But, while the impact that the sale may have on utility rates is important to all Long Islanders, Glenwood Landing (GWL) and Glen Head (GH) have some legitimate local concerns that often seem to be overlooked.

The Local Perspective

If the deal goes forward, what are the implications for upgrading, maintaining, or selling older plants like the GWL Power Station? How might the sale affect the tax base, if at all? Would the change in ownership affect the operation of newer generators, such as those that were recently installed on Shore Road northeast of the plant? How good is National Grid’s environmental record? What kind of relationship does National Grid have with residents in communities where it already owns plants? Might the deal help—or hinder—public acquisition of the vacant utility lot just south of Tappen Beach?

Bringing this lot into the public domain has been a long-standing goal of the GW/GH Civic Association. The elements needed for success seem to be coalescing, however haltingly: the lot is reportedly on the list of priority acquisitions at both the town and state levels; the acquisition has been endorsed by the United Civic Associations of North Oyster Bay; according to the NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation, KeySpan has cleaned up the lot to residential standards; the Town of Oyster Bay (TOB) has been awarded a grant from the NYS Dept. of State / Division of Coastal Resources to cover a small portion of the cost of public acquisition; and bringing the lot into the public domain would advance the NYS Open Space Plan, which specifically cites as a priority the creation of a GWL Waterfront Greenway, and the GWL Waterfront Redevelopment and Revitalization Plan, which calls for bringing into the public domain as much waterfront property as possible along the TOB portion of Hempstead Harbor.

International Companies Eye GWL Waterfront

Acquisition of Shore Road assets by international conglomerates appears to be part of a national trend that began locally several years ago, when Aquarion, a company owned by Kelda Group, a British firm, acquired Sea Cliff Water Company. Coincidentally, on Friday, February 24, Kelda announced plans to sell Aquarion to Macquaire Bank, an Australian conglomerate that manages “infrastructure assets.”

Thus, if the KeySpan/National Grid deal moves forward, the parent companies of the two largest stakeholders on Shore Road in GWL and Sea Cliff will be multinational corporations headquartered abroad. Should residents be concerned, particularly when the companies involved supply needs as fundamental as water, electricity, and natural gas; control access to the waterfront and to waterfront view corridors; and hold among their assets some buildings that may merit protection based on their historic significance?

What You Can Do

Communities where industries locate often pay an esthetic and environmental price, but they may also realize certain economic benefits. Personally, I’m proud that the GWL Waterfront has been supplying Long Island with electricity for more than a century. I think we deserve more credit for it. I think the practice should continue. I think we should strive to minimize the impact of electrical production on the environment.

According to newspaper reports and press releases, both the KeySpan and Aquarion deals require regulatory approval. The Civic Association plans to express its concerns to the authorities listed below. We urge everyone who lives or works in GWL or GH to express their views, as well—whatever those views may be.

Contacts (to be amended as needed)

James Gallagher, Director, Office of Electricity & Environment, NYS Public Service Commission, Empire State Plaza, Agency Building 3, Albany, NY 12223-1350

Tom Dvorsky, Director, Office of Gas & Water, NYS Public Service Commission (see above)

Timothy S. Carey, President & CEO, New York Power Authority, 123 Main Street, White Plains, NY 10601-317

Joseph S. Seymour, Chairman, New York Power Authority (see above)

Richard Kessel, Chairman, Long Island Power Authority, 333 Earle Ovington Blvd., Suite 403, Uniondale, NY 11553

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