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Environmental law firm suggests Jessup seek larger host agreement

Mar 1 - McClatchy-Tribune Content Agency, LLC - Jeff Horvath The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.
Released On 3/1/2016


    An environmental law firm hired by a power plant opposition group says Invenergy's $1 million annual host agreement offer to Jessup borough should be $5 million per year higher, a claim borough solicitor Richard Fanucci called unfounded.

    Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services, which has an office in Pittsburgh, suggested in acertified letter that Jessup is in the negotiating position to seek a significantly larger annual payout. Citizens for a Healthy Jessup paid a "nominal fee" for the services, according to a member of the group.

    They also suggested new host agreement terms, such as a one-time $5 million impact fee and a one-time $500,000 payment to provide energy assistance for Jessup's low-income families.

    Fair Shake's conclusions are based on comparisons between the $1 million host agreement offered for the proposed Lackawanna Energy Center and those paid at other power generation facilities, which Mr. Fanucci said aren't comparable.

    "These plants are in different states, with different tax structures and different power markets," Mr. Fanucci said. "They aren't distinguishing that (in the letter). It's not apples to apples."

    Citizens for a Healthy Jessup member Jason Petrochko argues that host agreements at other plants set a precedent of what energy companies can, and have paid.

    "The point of looking at these plants is to give council an idea of what other companies are paying," said Mr. Petrochko, who added that Fair Shake's letter "gives (council) the leverage they need to get a better deal."

    Because a host agreement is a condition of Invenergy's conditional use permit, Mr. Petrochko said "council is in a position to negotiate a dollar amount that would ensure the proper balance to the harms the plant would bring." He believes Fair Shake's $6 million recommendation is a good "starting point" for future negotiations.

    "(Fair Shake) didn't supply any basis whatsoever" for the $6 million figure, Mr. Fanucci said, adding that "there is a difference between good negotiation and extortion."

    Mr. Petrochko stands behind Fair Shake's conclusions.

    "We've uncovered enough to make us believe that there is more money on the table," Mr. Petrochko said. "The letter shows this, and we hope it encourages (council) to take that extra step to make sure they get a fair deal."

    By "extra step" he means the hiring of outside counsel to assist in negotiations, something Citizens for a Healthy Jessup has advocated for months.

    "We are 100 percent confident that we have it under control," said Mr. Fanucci, who expressed further confidence in the negotiations to this point.

    Borough Council will have the final say in approving any agreement, regardless of the terms. The agreement on the table offers Jessup $1 million per year with a 10 percent increase in annual payment every decade. The borough would receive $250,000 per year during construction, with at least two years of those payments guaranteed.

    Residents will have an opportunity to further discuss the host agreement Thursday at Jessup's regularly scheduled work session.

    Contact the writer:

    jhorvath@timesshamrock.com, @jhorvathTT on Twitter


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