It’s time to replace and reform NYPA to help reverse economic decline
In light of the recent Buffalo News series, “Power Failure,” that clearly confirms Congressman Higgins’ longstanding contention that the profits from the Niagara Power Plant can no longer be used to subsidize the waste and abuse of NYPA, the Congressman called for the resignations of the NYPA Trustees and its senior management team.
“Our fight continues for a greater share of the benefits made possible by the only plant in the system that, according to the Buffalo News, generates 56% of the electricity produced by the Authority and in which 86% of the plant’s economic benefit leaves the area.”
“14% benefit retention is outrageous, unacceptable and must be reversed. The existing process does not give Governor Spitzer the opportunity he needs to reform the Power Authority unobstructed by a board and top management structured by previous Administrations that failed to recognize the real power of NYPA that is generated by the Niagara Power Project.”
“This failure ends only when those in power are replaced and a 90-day review should determine if NYPA used funds as “hush money” to undermine locals efforts toward a fair settlement and to review those policies, practices and proposed reforms that have the greatest potential to reverse Western New York’s economic decline if implemented,” stated the Congressman. “We can no longer accept business as usual from NYPA when they have made it their business to run money losing operations off the staggering revenues generated annually by the Niagara Power Plant, this nation’s second-largest producer of hydropower.”
“The Niagara Power Plant generates more electricity than all the other power producing NYPA facilities combined and yet, only one of the seven Trustees resides in Western New York. The power and revenue generated by the Niagara Plant deserves more balanced representation at the NYPA Trustee table and in NYPA corporate leadership.”
This News series points to the cost - economically, socially and psychologically – when others are in control of our greatest natural asset – cheap and plentiful electricity. The political and public will to demand change must be harnessed to protect what we have today and to prepare for what is needed tomorrow. Those companies that create wealth in the community – the auto industry, manufacturing, locally owned and operated businesses need greater support and
there is a need to prepare for the inevitable transition from the labor intensive workplace to those with a more technically intensive focus.
Higgins’ Action Steps:
• Resign and Replace – NYPA Trustees and top management must resign so Governor Spitzer will be able to realign and appoint new leadership that reflects a better balance of power and profits generated by the hydropower facilities in Niagara Falls and St. Lawrence.
• Review-Following the resignations, an intense 90-day review to determine whether NYPA used funds as “hush money” to undermine local efforts toward a fair settlement. The review of existing practices and proposed reform measures are needed to help Western New York keep more local benefits from hydropower
• Reform – potential opportunities
o NYPA Headquarters relocated to Western New York
o Create an Upstate Power Distribution Center that increases and expedites the allocation and distribution of available hydropower to ensure WNY business retention, expansion and relocation
o Develop criteria to ensure business and residential customers are paying a fair and equitable rate – goal should be no more than national average
o Encourage and reward energy efficiency
In May of 2005, the freshman Congressman took on the New York Power Authority publicly challenging its meager $2 Million a year offer to Buffalo and Erie County in return for a 50 year license. At that time, NYPA’s position was that they could not afford to do more and to do so would negatively impact on the community.
The News series exposes and confirms the Congressman’s allegations that NYPA was using its resources to co-opt the local community by piecing off business and other interests by striking separate deals that would buy the support and silence of those who wanted to protect their own interests and secure NYPA benefits over the next 50 years.
Congressman Higgins created the factual basis for the argument that Buffalo and Erie County were deserving of a more substantial settlement based on the Federal Power Act when he first proposed an alternative settlement that increased the amount of funding delivered to our region by NYPA with the mandate for local control and direct distribution of such resources for economic development along Buffalo’s waterfront.
His research and relentlessness in demonstrating the mismanagement and wasteful spending practices of NYPA led to greater public support and he and the community succeeded when it was announced that NYPA agreed to a $279 Million settlement to mitigate the impacts of the Power Plant along the Buffalo waterfront.
“We did not hire consultants and legal firms to make our case. We learned about the free flowing money spent by NYPA from NYPA’s own minutes and annual reports where they were more interested in playing favorites with their pork laden handouts than in providing what was fair and equitable to Western New York. And while we achieved a significant victory for the community in standing up and fighting for itself, it was no where near enough in creating greater economic development opportunities. This remains our next battle which can only be won with new leadership in top NYPA positions that bring with them a commitment to reverse our economic decline in Western New York.”