When I was just a lad of eight, my parents moved the family from the Lower East Side of New York City(noted for its immigrant populations living in tenements) to the beachfront community of Rockaway Beach in the borough of Queens. One of the big advantages of that move was that we changed electric utility companies from Con Ed to Lilco. Con Ed stands for Consolidated Edison, the electric utility that is the direct descendant of the original power company formed by Thomas Edison on Pearl Street in N.Y.C. We natives preferred the term Con Ed with the emphasis on the first name, since we were paying one of the highest electric rates in the known universe. Moving to the Rockaways, the name the area was collectively known as, we came under the auspices of Lilco, a.k.a. The Long Island Lighting Company, since the Rockaways had once been a part of Long Island but got swapped in the nineteenth century for some trinkets and Indians. The great advantage of being served by Lilco was that electricity was much cheaper than the Con Ed rates.
All of that changed, however, in 1969 when the Long Island Powers- That-Be voted to construct a nuclear power plant in the sleepy little hamlet of Shoreham. They also approved plans to build a second nuclear power plant at Jamesport, further east on Long Island if the Shoreham plant proved successful. Lilco officials bragged that once completed, the electricity generated from Shoreham would be so cheap that they would not even have to meter it. They lived to eat those words, believe me.
Bch 67 St. at Larkin(Rockaway Bch)
(Note the energy saving traffic light)
The original cost of the plant in 1969 was projected to be $225 million, a princely sum in those days, to be sure. Yet, here we stand some 33 years later with a price tag of more than $7 billion and a new 33 year loan that my as yet unborn grandchildren will still be paying for, and not one watt of electricity has ever reached a home on Long Island from the Shoreham Nuclear Fiasco plant. In fact, it was directly responsible for the demise of Lilco and the rise of its successor, the Long Island Power Authority, or LIPA in acronymese.
Shoreham is a sleepy little village nestled on the northern coast of the Long Island Sound that separates New York from Connecticut. Ironically, it has had some brush with electrical history before the nuclear nightmare began in 1969. In 1906, electrical pioneer and Edison arch rival Nikola Tesla constructed tall towers in the village of Shoreham, which was called Wardenclyffe at the time.
Tesla invented alternating current, which we use in our homes and businesses, also had a hand in developing radio, radar, satellite surveillance systems, and even an idea that would become the basis for the Star Wars defense system. In 1906, he was working on a project in Long Island that would transmit electricity between towers without any wires. Unfortunately for Tesla, it didn’t work, but he was honored with a street named after him in Shoreham anyway. There was also a band named after him that had a hit with a remake of the song "Signs" which, ironically, was originally recorded by the Five Man Electrical Band, but, that’s another story entirely.
Shoreham, as the nuclear power plant came to be known, was plagued with problems from the get go, which is Latin for beginning, not to be confused with gecko which is a lizard that sells auto insurance. First of all, Lilco bribed the townspeople of Shoreham by building them a beautiful high school, complete with wall-to-wall carpeting, swimming pool, and even a bowling alley. The townsfolk enjoyed high property values and much lower property taxes than the rest of us Long Island folk. In the 1980s, when I was an investigator for New York State(which is where I got the Sleuth thing from) I had the honor of investigating a company that was building a smokestack for the Shoreham plant.
My investigation started with a few individuals in this firm, but I noticed a great many names on the payroll that appeared to be fictitious. The president of the company had previously been convicted of $1 million bribery deal in connection with building an incinerator for the Town of Hempstead. My case started with allegations of unemployment insurance fraud; however, I expanded it when I discovered scores of people who all had out-of-state addresses as far away as Maryland, and all of their paychecks bore the same endorsements. In my prior dealings with Shoreham, I had come across allegations of fraud and payroll padding by many of the firms that were involved with the construction of this plant. The newspapers were full of stories of abuses. I personally interviewed a young recent high school graduate who was making more than four times my salary(my job required a college degree) as a painter. He informed me that he got the job through his father, a union member, and that he would arrive at work every day and sleep for eight hours. Only when he was officially on overtime at time and half, did he actually do any work. I was told that this was the way they all worked. No wonder the cost overruns was so staggering. Not only that, he further informed me that nearly everyone who worked there was stealing. I personally met many people who had decorated their homes with materials that were supposed to be part of Shoreham.
Typical Shoreham employee home
(*Sleuth file photo)
In order to test my theory that the employees I was investigating in 1980 were not actually engaged in any work at the Shoreham facility, I decided to pay the place a visit. Keep in mind that this was just after the Three Mile Island disaster and before Chernobyl. I was armed with the dates and times that these people were allegedly working at the plant, and my aim was to check the logs of Shoreham to see if these people actually signed in at the plant. I met with the chief of security who informed me that they kept no record of who comes and goes on the site. I asked if workers needed an ID badge, and he said that they did. I asked to see a list of names of workers who were issued ID badges from the company I was investigating, and he informed me that they had no such list and that the companies themselves issued the badges. So, he agreed that they had no record or even a clue as to who came and went at that facility. I couldn’t help but shudder when I wondered how they would track the plutonium at the place when it arrived to fuel the reactors. Needless to say, I was not filled with confidence in having this thing in my backyard.
Ironically what eventually brought the downfall of Shoreham, as if the foregoing were not enough, was one simple but overlooked fact. It was located on Long Island. Long Island was named that for a very good reason. It is a very long island. It is approximately 110 miles long(150 or so, if you count Brooklyn and Queens, which are geographically part of Long Island even though, politically, they are part of New York City.) At its widest point it is approximately ten to fifteen miles wide. Even though the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is supposed to protect the public from nuclear power plants, changed safety and evacuation rules in order to license the Shoreham facility, the thing was eventually brought down by the fact that there was no way to evacuate the three million and growing people of Long Island in the event of an emergency. HELLOOO! It was an island back in 1969, and remains one to this day. Didn’t any of these Bozos notice that? Since the population could not be evacuated, the plant was never going to open. Lilco was eventually forced to sell it to the State of NY for $1.
The State created LIPA(Long Island Power Authority) to buy Lilco’s transmission lines for $6 billion even though they were only valued at $1.5 billion. Lilco had been previously convicted of racketeering charges under the Federal RICO statutes, and as a result, each ratepayer should have been given at least $2,000 in refunds. The reality, however, is that we in Suffolk County were given $106 and Nassau County residents received $206 and a lower electric rate, allegedly to make up for the tax benefits that the village of Shoreham and the Town of Brookhaven received. Though we did get a rate reduction of approximately 17% when LIPA took over in 1998, with illegal fuel surcharges still being added to our bills, we are just about back where we started from, paying the highest rates for electricity in the universe.
And, to add insult to injury, Lilco was allowed to retain the power generating plants and could sell them to LIPA by May, 2002 for an undetermined price to be mutually agreed upon. Since they could not get together on how much more the beleaguered rate payers should overpay for these antiquated and inadequate power plants, they agreed to extend the deadline for LIPA to decide for another two years. Since it is an election year in which governor Pataki is up for reelection, and he engineered the original LIPA takeover of Lilco, this comes as no surprise to this reporter.
But, the story doesn’t end there. Since we are facing massive energy shortages due to increasing populations and the popularity of electric devices, such as computers, LIPA has started to construct some additional power plants. It appears that they will not be able to construct them fast enough to meet the growing needs of our beloved Island. This summer they pulled a stop gap measure that is typical of the shifty way they do business. They are leasing ten portable electric generators and sticking them all over the Island, despite the protests of residents. It seems these things are noisy and they pollute the atmosphere. LIPA, however, can legally ignore these complaint as they managed to find a loophole regarding pollution and noise standards. State regulations require that only generators of 80 megawatts or more must meet the standards. These generators clock in at 79.6 megawatts, just a cat’s whisker under the limit, and therefore, need not comply with state regulations.
They have come up with another stop gap measure to fill in the gaps before new power plants can be approved and built. Recently LIPA completed an underwater electric cable across the Long Island Sound to Connecticut. Called the Trans-Sound Cable, this twenty-mile long extension cord was supposed to solve some of our projected electrical energy shortages until we can convince the public that we need to build more power plants. It is supposed to provide us with 350 megawatts of power. So far we have gotten no electricity from this cable, nary a watt. The plan was originally opposed by Connecticut’s government on environmental grounds as it would interfere with the oyster beds. The cable company got around that by rerouting the cable around the oyster beds, and convincing the Marriott Hotel Chain to build a series of Courtyards by Marriott under the sound strictly for the use of the oysters who now sleep in luxury that most of us will never know. Even the poor oysters who have no pearls are sleeping in finer beds than they have ever known. Talk about pearls before swine.
Now that the cable has been installed, the State of Connecticut has refused to give us a place to plug it in on some other environmental grounds. So, we have spent millions of dollars to run an extension cord to our neighbor’s house and the ingrate won’t let us plug it in. There is no connecting in Connecticut so perhaps they should remove the word "connect" from the name of their state and spell it correctly, like it sounds; C-o-n--e--t-i-c-u-t. The only part of their name that is correct is the "cut" part since they cut off our power. I think they should return the chain saw they borrowed two years ago and the leaf rake and the other power tools that they borrowed and conveniently forgot to return to Long Island.
On the other hand, perhaps they were just being prudent. Why should Long Island’s power shortages be solved by creating shortages in Connecticut? According to an article in The Daily News of Oct. 21, Maple Leaf Farms of Franksville, WI just built the world’s first electric power plant powered by duck manure. They turn the duck poop into methane gas which powers a turbine that makes the electricity. They are allegedly working on poop-powered flashlights that will replace the Energizer Bunny. Perhaps Daffy Duck can revive his career as a commercial spokesman the same way ALF did recently.
The irony is that Long Island blew it big time, as we used to be one of the largest duck producers and ergo, duck poop producers in the world. In the early 1990s, the EPA fined the Eastport Duck Cooperative $90,000 for polluting Moriches Bay with duck poop. At that time it was the largest single fine ever levied by the EPA, and it effectively killed the entire duck industry on Long Island. I guess they didn’t have the money to buy little duck porta Johns for the beasties. If only they had the duck poop technology then, we could have solved three problems with one turd, saved an industry, eliminated a source of pollution, and solved our energy problems well into the next century.
Thanks EPA. We really appreciate that. When it came to power, we got the shaft. Once again, we Long Islanders get pooped on. Under the current plan, the new notes will be paid up in thirty more years. Whatever will we do with all of the money we will be saving by not having to pay those notes? I have a novel idea. How about we look for other means of obtaining power?
We could go back to the old idea that our Dutch ancestors one used, windmills. For two out of every four years we could harness the hot air that is coming from all of our politicians. In between the election years, we could perhaps harness the power of electric eels and fireflies. Say, we are an island aren’t we? Whatever happened to wave power? Did you ever feel the wind created when the fans at a football stadium do The Wave thing? It could produce mucho megawatts of electricity and cool off the fans as well. We have an ocean and a sound. Sounds like a great idea to me. And, since we get sun, I understand Home Depot and Lowe’s are selling solar powered voltaic cells fairly reasonable these days. Not to mention fuel cells that are being tested right here in our own pollution factory, Brookhaven National Labs. Those sources would be simple and cheap. But being so, they would not generate huge profits for the energy companies so they will probably never see the light of day nor the sun for that matter.
And if none of that works, LI folks will have to learn to conserve. Maybe Martha Stewart could do community service and teach the Hamptons’ folk upscale conservation techniques, like turning off the air conditioning in the servant’s quarters. Actually, if Rose Kennedy was still alive, she could do an excellent job on training in this area. After all, she used to charge her underpaid chauffeur ten cents for every cup of Kennedy coffee he drank in her house. And, it was lousy coffee to boot.
And THAT, was my two-cents plain!
The artist formerly known as
Remember that Tuesday is Election Day and we urge you to go out and vote, with the exception of Florida, which might be better off with a light turnout, given their difficulties in counting votes. Seriously though, it is your opportunity to make a difference. The incumbents are counting on you not showing up at the polls so they can keep the status quo. Why not do as the Founding Fathers intended and screw the government for a change by actually going to vote and showing them who is boss. You not only have the right to complain, but Tuesday you get the right to have your voices heard. Surprise these people and show up for a change. You’ll be glad you did. Even if your candidate doesn’t win, you will be sending a message that you care enough to get off of your butt and take a stand. That is the only way we can take the government back from the people who have bought and paid for it.
By the way, my friend, B.S. Pyle, recently wrote a column extolling the benefits of electing dead people. With the rate that candidates have been turning up dead lately, that is getting easier and easier to do.
Remember vote early, and for you seniors in Florida and elsewhere, voting often is not an early bird special thing. You still only get to vote once, and that includes you, mater and pater. If you play your cards right, once is enough.
Letters to the Editor
Re- Halloween Spooktacular!
That was a great article about Halloween. I fully understood every word that you wrote.
About the candy. Nasty stuff, calls my name! So I buy what I won't eat. Like Dum-Dums, or Jaw-Breakers. Last year we had so few Trick-Or-Treaters, 'cuz of 9/11. Everyone just knew that I was brewing Anthrax in the bathtub. An average year in this subdivision is 500 beggars. Last year, 148. Good thing last year was a pencil and sticker year.
My game is after the little beggars are in bed, I go Trick-Or-Treating. I am a champ a T.P. Tossing!
Thanks for an enjoyable article.
Patricia. A.K.A. Mother Meatball.
( Bet that makes the guys in the office laugh.)
Thanks Patricia. Since you understood every word I wrote, I reckon those years I spent sleeping in English classes really have paid off. Perhaps you ought clean your bathtub a bit more often. Since the number of beggars in your neighborhood has dropped by 75% in the last year, I’d say the police are doing an excellent job. If the trend continues there should be a lot less candy calling your name this year.
Just be careful where you toss your T.P. You may hit one of those remaining beggars and have a big lawsuit on your hand. Worse yet, you may get picked up by the cops. If you think that the Mother Meatball moniker is funny around the water cooler, just wait until you see the reaction you get in the county lockup. (-Ed.)
Fuel for the pyre?
I hate to toss water on your fire, but not one single witch was burned in Salem ... or any where else in the colonies. They were hanged. Only Europeans burned witches. :
I wonder what sort of political candidates burned and/or hanged witches would make?
Dead ones! (-Ed.)
Not one single woman was burned at the stake in Salem, MA during the witch trials. But I'm sure you have already received hundreds, perhaps thousands, of e-mails on that issue.
Ah, if only that were true, my dear Ken. That would mean that I had thousands of readers instead of the few hundred that I actually do have. Of them, you are only the second to point this out. You are correct in that no single woman was burned at the stake in Salem. They were all married women, and half of them were, in fact, . . . men. (-Ed.)
Re: Sweet Song
Waaahhh! My brother's scaring me again!!! Brings back memories of when he used to hide under my bed and shake it in the middle of the night. Used to scare the bejeebers out of me. I see he still has the knack! Gonna go tell my mom now, so talk to ya later.
Shannon (A.K.A. "The Brat"), MI
P.S. NOT a good sleuth song! Might I suggest The Pink Panther, or something sleuthy like that. LOL
Aw Gee, give the guy a break, will ya? That’s what big brothers are for. I know, because I am one myself. Never mind this stuff and tell me some stuff about your big sister that I can use. (-Ed.)
P.S. For those of you not "in the know," Shannon is kid sister to CheyAnna and Guard Dog.
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