Lawmaker Chides Business Leaders on Silence; Issues Call For Support
Calling for a unified front in support of his efforts to increase the settlement offer from the New York Power Authority (NYPA) to spur economic development along Buffalo’s waterfront, Congressman Brian Higgins (27th District – Buffalo & Erie County) today admonished the Buffalo Niagara Partnership and the local business community to weigh in on this matter and join in support of his efforts.
According to Higgins, NYPA continues its “divide and conquer” strategy as it tries to secure another fifty year federal license to operate the Niagara Power Plant by settling with some stakeholders but refusing to fairly negotiate with Buffalo and Erie County. This process is being driven by NYPA and is being done on a fast track, says Higgins, to ensure that the public has as little opportunity as possible to understand and potentially object to NYPA’s actions.
“The Niagara Power Plant generates not only the cheapest, cleanest hydropower in the country; it generates, at NYPA’s own admission, an annual net profit from the Niagara Power Plant of $537.6 million. Where does that half billion profit go? Certainly not to benefit the communities who have hosted the industries that had to locate within the required 30 mile radius to be able to get reasonable priced power allocations.”
“NYPA doesn’t want close scrutiny of its actions, and hopes that it can achieve a speedy relicensing without too much attention,” said Higgins. “In effect, they are seeking to pull a fast one on Western New Yorkers, and we need everyone, government and business leaders alike, to stand up and fight for Western New York in a unified fashion,” Higgins added.
NYPA has not just dealt unfairly with Buffalo and Erie County, says Higgins, it continues to engage in a campaign of misinformation and outright falsehoods in opposition to his efforts to increase the settlement an additional $8 million annually and to have it dedicated to the restoration and mediation of Western New York’s waterfront.
“NYPA continues to drive the relicensing process like common thugs,” said Higgins. “We need Buffalo’s business community to stand up and be counted as well, and to tell NYPA that enough is enough, and that Western New York deserves a fair settlement,” Higgins added.
Higgins pointed to NYPA’s membership in the Buffalo Niagara Partnership’s “Leadership Circle,” a $25,000 per year contribution to the Partnership’s state and federal lobbying efforts that Higgins says has bought the Partnership’s silence on the relicensing debate. Instead of providing the forum for an open discussion of NYPA’s re-licensing efforts, Higgins says that the Partnership puts the NYPA logo on its printed material and the best interests of this community is left off.
“One only has to look across the Niagara River to the Canadian shoreline to see what we can be with the dedicated resources and a real partnership of business, civic and community leaders standing up to do the right thing,” said Higgins. “Our business community should be leading the fight for a fair settlement,” Higgins added.
Higgins noted that over the past 50 years, the Niagara River basin allowed for the location of industrial businesses within a 30 mile radius of the Niagara Power Project because federal legislation mandated that discounted power would be apportioned to those businesses. Now, with most of those industrial customers closed, Buffalo’s waterfront is dotted with the remnants of those businesses – brownfields – which are in place solely because cheap hydropower was made available within that original 30 mile radius. That, says Higgins, is justification enough to warrant a more generous settlement from NYPA for Buffalo and Erie County.
“Were it not for the cheap hydropower afforded to businesses locating in that 30 mile radius, there is a strong likelihood that the Canadian and American sides of the Niagara River may have looked much the same,” said Higgins. “The unfortunate remnants of our industrial past remain in place today, however, and cry out for redevelopment,” Higgins added.
In closing, Higgins renewed his call for the public and for the business community to join with him to seek real changes from NYPA and a fair and just settlement from NYPA as they seek a federal license to operate.
“This is a simple matter: either stand with myself and the residents and taxpayers of Western New York in support of my proposal to see expanded job growth and economic opportunity along the Lake Erie shoreline, or you stand for the status quo,” said Higgins. “Buffalo's business community cannot remain silent on this issue any longer, they must stand up and join us in the fight for what is fair and just for our community,” Higgins concluded.