Power play backfires on Sweeney

A recommendation this week issued to the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) by Levitan and Associates rewards three power plant projects and denies the one that drove the legislation in the first place: an LS Power project, which was to have been located in the district of Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford). 

Sweeney wrote the controversial bill to expand the state’s megawatt capacity  to provide for the LS Power project. Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac lobbied Gov. Chris Christie for a piece of the action, and secured the governor’s backing before Christie signed Sweeney’s bill.

Now Sweeney’s project – envisioned as a big shovels in the ground election time bonanza – is out in the cold, while McCormac’s is slated for approval, in addition to a project in Newark, and one in Old Bridge, in the district of Christie confidant state Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R-Middletown).

Sources say LS Power’s application did not follow BPU rules. A steamed Sweeney this week brooded on the possibility that the governor screwed him, said one source, who worried about the volatility from this issue spilling into the budget process. Three sources said the LS Power application simply lacked.

The Senate president was not immediately available for comment.

Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel railed against the senate prez’s bill at the time.

“We opposed the bill because it was about pork and not about energy,” said Tittel. “It is a 2 billion dollar subsidy of fossil fuels instead of investing in wind or solar.”

On Monday, Levitan will issue its final report to the BPU.

Levitan considered 34 projects, and determined that nine had possibility. LS Power didn’t even make that cut.

These are the three natural gas power plants poised for BPU approval based on Levitan’s report: Hess Newark LLC (625.0 megawatts); New Jersey Power Development LLC in Old Bridge (660.1 mw); and CPV Shore, LLC (663.4 mw) in Woodbridge. That’s a total capcity of 1,948.5 megawatts, or just under the 2,000 additional megawatts allowed by the capacity agreement Sweeney authored and Christie signed into law on Jan. 28th.

“The Agent has determined that the recommended SOCA portfolio of the Newark Energy Project, Old Bridge Clean Energy Center, and Woodbridge Energy Center (the recommended SOCA portfolio) offers substantial net economic benefits on an expected value basis over the relevant planning horizon to New Jersey’s electric customers,” wrote Richard Levitan in his report to the BPU. “These net economic benefits are ascribable to the expected value of the SOCA portfolio in relation to the forecasted capacity market clearing.

“The Agent has determined that the recommended SOCA portfolio offers substantial socioeconomic benefits to the State of New Jersey on an expected value basis. These benefits are primarily due to the expansion of direct employment for the duration of the associated construction phases of the projects and the new on-site permanent jobs associated with operation and maintenance of the new generation facilities during their operating lives. In addition, employment and incomes are expected to increase due to the indirect impacts of increasing the demand for goods and services procured from New Jersey firms during the construction and operations phases, giving rise to what is known as an economic multiplier effect. Though not quantified, an additional economic benefit to New Jersey’s electric customers is the expected reduction in wholesale power costs which would be passed on to electric customers, giving rise to increased expenditures on other goods and services.”

Kyrillos was pleased by the preliminary report.

“The Old Bridge piece was a project I did support and did advocate for,” said the veteran senator. “I’m happy about it.”

Power play backfires on Sweeney