Congressman Contends Settlement Cheats WNY
Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) has filed an official complaint with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) objecting to the re-licensing process driven by the New York Power Authority (NYPA) for the Niagara Power Project and the NYPA’s failure to address the environmental impact of the power project on Buffalo and Erie County including the NYPA’s unwillingness to reimburse the community for the complex costs imposed as a result of the project’s existence.
“This is a fight for what is right for the residents and businesses in Western New York and I’m not going to give up,” said Congressman Higgins.
Calling his requests “reasonable and justified,” Congressman Higgins points to the significant impact the Niagara power plant has on the local community, a satellite basin for the Niagara Power Project. Higgins contends the industrial history of this region was based on its proximity to hydropower and, as its economy changed, it was left with a landscape scarred with Brownfields where industry once thrived. In addition, the Congressman notes that the ice boom, which occupies significant acreage on Buffalo’s harbor front, has a proven negative climactic, economic, environmental and aesthetic influence on this region.
While the Power Authority remains silent on this issue, the Congressman’s position on the impact of the ice boom is strengthened by the US Department of Interior’s recent letter in response to the Power Authority’s draft environmental assessment noting, “The ice boom has had a continuing impact on the ecology of the river and warrants analysis.”
The Power Authority was last licensed in 1957, and must undergo review and renewal by 2007. As a part of the re-licensing agreement, the NYPA has offered Buffalo and Erie County a flat $2 million per year settlement. Congressman Higgins is sponsoring legislation calling to increase that number to $10 million each year for the next 50 years, compounded by 3% annually to adjust for rising hydropower sales rates. In addition, Higgins’ bill would require the Power Authority to pay 1% of the gross sale of power from the Lewiston power project to Erie, Niagara, Chautauqua & Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agencies to assist local businesses and companies with the high cost of energy so they could focus on job retention and putting the people of WNY back to work.
“A settlement implies negotiation,” said Congressman Higgins. “In that negotiation, we have an opportunity to demand that a fraction of the profits NYPA is making on our soil get reinvested in the areas it impacts.” Under Higgins’ plan the newly created, locally controlled Waterfront Corporation would receive the settlement money for the purpose of design and construction costs associated with reinvestment along the Inner and Outer Harbor.
Congressman Higgins reminds residents that the settlement and power rates are unrelated issues commonly associated as a scare tactic, “This settlement will by no means increase power rates for local consumers, on the contrary it is about creating real jobs for real people, leading to meaningful economic development in Western New York.”