Archive for November 2008

Why Republicans lost the state Senate – By George J. Marlin

November 13, 2008

This article I wrote appeared in the Watertown Daily Times on November 8, 2008.

The Richie Kessel NYPA Watch, November 12, 2008 – By George J. Marlin

November 12, 2008

The November 7-12 issue of Long Island Business News (libn.com) contains Richie Kessel’s typically anodyne op-ed piece on wind power (“Blowing Toward Energy Independence”) in which he lets slip that NYPA has been approached by “dozens of [wind farm] developers” to develop projects as large as 500 or more megawatts. Richie says he looks forward to the day when “New York can be the wind capital of the world.” Once again, as is his wont, there is no mention of the billions required to build these projects or the effect on our electric bills.

Following his ill-fated exploration of a 40 turbine wind farm off Jones Beach while he ran LIPA, rational, independent analysis confirmed that these proposed wind farms in the Atlantic off the coast of Long Island would be grossly uneconomic and inflate already onerous LI electric rates. Long Islanders will remember that Kessel’s successor at LIPA, Kevin Law, insisted on releasing publicly the cost estimates and economics of the failed Kessel wind plan which showed that Kessel had hidden the true costs. LIPA’s disclosure in 2007 indicated that the Jones Beach plan would have cost over $800 million or multiples of the low-ball number Kessel had floated for a proposed 140MW wind farm. Simple extrapolation of that cost estimate to a 500 MW wind farm even farther off the coast of Long Island (and therefore disproportionally more expensive) would require investment of over $4 billion and would drive downstate electric rates to the heavens. Enough said for now.

Sandy Treadwell: The Silver Spoon Congressional Candidate – By George J. Marlin

November 11, 2008

As Sandy Treadwell’s professional predecessor, George Plimpton, discovered on his make believe adventures, sometimes shrewd locals take advantage of the well-meaning dilettante on his Grand Tour of Europe. Treadwell, failed Congressional wannabe, was taken advantage of this political season by mercenary political advisors who convinced him to part with about $5 million of his grandfather’s money in an ill-fated pursuit of public office.

While Plimpton was fleeced watching the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain and attempting to play major league baseball, Treadwell’s expensive lesson came closer to home. In a traditionally Republican district with a significant 16% Republican registration advantage, Treadwell spent nearly $6 million (over 80% his inherited wealth along with an ineffective fund-raising appeal by his patron, George Elmer Pataki asking hard-pressed and over-taxed Republicans to give money to the rich guy) equal to a huge per vote cost of about $60 and lost by 24% to a first-term Congressman.

The result of Treadwell’s ineffectual run for office was in fact no better than that of Republican Jim Buhrmaster in the adjoining district except that district was traditionally Democratic with a huge (26%) Democratic registration advantage and Buhrmaster didn’t waste $5 million of his own money to get a vote percentage in the low 30s.  In fact, candidate Buhrmaster spent about $250,000 in his race or less than $3 per vote and achieved the same result and nearly the same percentage of the vote as Treadwell.

The voters of the 20th District in their wisdom determined that Treadwell’s pursuit of a new opportunity for fun by playing the role of Congressman was worthy of reality TV but not their votes and sent him back to one of his vacation homes to husband his depleted family funds.

The Richie Kessel NYPA Watch, November 9, 2008 – By George J. Marlin

November 9, 2008

Richie Kessel, having been installed by Governor Paterson as CEO of NYPA only three weeks ago, leaked to Newsday’s Mark Harrington, as reported in the November 7 issue, that he plans a wind farm “of significant size” off the Atlantic Coast and a new sub-Atlantic power cable. As is his practice, Kessel didn’t disclose the potential cost, effect on customer rates or how after three weeks at NYPA he could pronounce these steps as the right diagnosis for the State’s energy ills. In true Carnac the Magnificent custom, let me proffer three answers: Billions of dollars, dramatically higher customer rates for affected areas and Kessel doesn’t have a clue but after two weeks was hungry for some press.

Kessel told Harrington that he envisions a NYPA wind farm built under a “downstate partnership” among NYPA, the City of New York, the MTA, LIPA and the Port Authority. Belying the purely promotional nature of the leak, Kessel noted that he had spoken on the phone to Mayor Bloomberg about the concept; a mayoral spokesman confirming the extremely tentative nature of this trial balloon noted that Bloomberg and Richie would meet in the future.

Observers of Kessel’s reign at LIPA will remember that Kessel heavily promoted a wind farm off of Jones Beach which despite Kessel’s promise of cheap wind power ballooned to $800 million in cost and was abandoned by LIPA and Governors Spitzer and Paterson due to its adverse effect on beleaguered Long Island ratepayers and complaints about ruining the pristine Long Island viewscape off the South Shore. That exercise cost Long Island electric customers many millions of dollars. Long Islanders will also remember (certainly Newsday does) that Kessel, the leading Long Island practitioner of government by press release, stonewalled Newsday’s repeated requests for data about the wind farm’s costs, effect on rates and technical issues. Newsday was forced to resort to multiple freedom of information requests for this information.

Governor Paterson announced in September of this year that LIPA would carefully study a wind farm off the coast of the Rockaways in partnership with Con Edison. It is too early to draw any conclusions about the feasibility of that project although the presence of Con Edison, a stockholder-owned concern with many issues of its own, should bring some rationality to economic analysis of any wind facility. LIPA’s coolness to this latest Kessel proposal was evident in its tautological response quoted by Newsday’s Harrington: “LIPA is interested in working with NYPA on any project that makes sense for Long Island.” Hard to argue with that.

Finally, observers of Kessel’s time on Long Island will also remember that politically-connected lobbyists close to Richie were advancing the cause of Florida Power & Light, one of the nation’s leading wind companies, which had been chosen by LIPA to build the now-abandoned Long Island wind farm. Let’s watch the lobbying issue going forward.

Thanks to the present and former NYPA employees who have reached out since we first published on Kessel and NYPA. Among other things one wonders what NYPA’s professional staff think about this initial Kessel trial balloon. Please email to streetcornercons@aol.com.

P.S. Kessel’s decision to leak to Newsday, Long Island’s dominant paper, raises anew questions about whether he yet realizes that NYPA is an upstate-focused government entity and whether his real interest is ultimately in running for Nassau County Executive when the current occupant, Tom Suozzi, moves on.