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Reps. Higgins, Lee, Israel, Maloney & Massa Introduce NY Power Authority Bill in House

Apr 29, 2009
Press Release

Late yesterday, Congressmembers Brian Higgins, Chris Lee, Steve Israel, Carolyn Maloney and Eric Massa introduced a bill (HR2133) in the House of Representatives that would require the New York Power Authority to direct into a special fund profits from the sale of unused energy that was allocated for Western New York industries for Western New York waterfront, cultural, park and economic development projects. 

“It is our natural resource that fuels the Niagara Power Project and our community needs and deserves a greater share of the benefits from the plant,” said Congressman Higgins, a member of the Great Lakes Caucus whose district includes Erie and Chautauqua Counties.  “I am thankful to my colleagues in Congress who join me in this fight for and economic justice and reinvestment in this great region.” 

“This legislation will prevent the Power Authority from continuing to exploit our natural resources to the detriment of Western New York families,” Congressman Lee said. “I applaud Congressman Higgins’ efforts to ensure that these assets are re-invested in growing the community and creating job opportunities in our area.”

Congressman Lee’s district includes Erie and Niagara counties.  He is a member of the House Committee on Financial Services, the Congressional Manufacturing Caucus and the House Economic Recovery Solutions Working Group. 

“The Buffalo-Niagara community was promised its fair share from the local power plant and it shouldn’t matter if that comes to them in megawatts or dollars. By investing the proceeds from the excess power sales back into development in the local community, we can address our top priority: creating new jobs for New Yorkers,” said Rep. Steve Israel

Congressman Steve Israel is a legislative leader on the issue of renewable energy.  He serves on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy & Water and is Co-Chair and Founder of the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Caucus. 

“It's only fair that more of the revenues generated by Western New York's power stations are used to help enhance Western New York's economic attractiveness to industry and residents. This bill would do that,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney said.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney represents New York’s 14th Congressional District.  She is the Chair of the Joint Economic Committee and a member of the House Committee on Financial Services and the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. 

“I am proud to stand with my colleagues as we fight to strengthen the future of Western New York,” said Rep. Massa.  “Today we stand united with a common goal of returning more of our resources to our communities and I could not be more supportive of this plan.”

Congressman Massa represents Western New York’s 29th district.  He serves on the House Agriculture’s Subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Energy & Research and is a member of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition. 

The federal legislation effectively amends the 1957 Niagara Redevelopment Act to compel the authority to keep more of the benefits of Niagara Hydropower in Western New York.  The actions proposed in the bill can be enacted merely with action by the Authority's Board of Trustees, but rather than wait for the Authority to act, the Congressmemebers took action based on the urgent economic need in Upstate New York.  Currently the profits from the sale of this electricity go back to the Authority’s general fund. 

Many Western New York companies receiving low-cost power use substantially less than they are allocated because they are not running at capacity 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week.  This unused power is retained by the Power Authority and resold at profit of about $63 million annually.    Through this legislation the Replacement and Expansion Power revenue would be reinvested in initiatives in Erie, Niagara and Chautauqua Counties.  This funding could help pay for bonds which would be sold to finance roughly one-half billion dollars in immediate sorely needed capital improvements in the region. 

Under the bill a Regional Development Corporation would be formed to oversee distribution of the funds. Members of the six-person board would include one appointee each of the:  Niagara County Legislature, Erie County Executive, Chautauqua County Executive, New York Governor, Buffalo Mayor, Mayor of Niagara Falls.  

Western New York power profits could be used for construction, engineering, architecture and related projects for the development of the waterfront in Niagara, Erie and Chautauqua Counties; the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation; the Olmsted Parks system; regional cultural institutions in the three counties; Niagara Falls redevelopment initiatives and the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.  Funds would be allocated in proportion to the existing ratio for the allocation of replacement and expansion power between facilities in the three counties. 

Last year alone NYPA had a surplus of $309 million, over 75% of which is directly attributable to the Niagara Power Project here in Western New York.    NYPA’s own study found that only 14% of the economic benefit from the Niagara Power project currently remains in the WNY region.