January 25, 2008

What is all this "WE" when it comes to Niagara Power

I'm not overly parochial. I'm not one of these old-line Niagara types who think we are in some sort of war with our friends south of here in Erie County. I believe we are essentially one region and need to act that way. So, with that disclaimer, I'm always amazed at editorials like the one in today's Buffalo News that says rethink Niagara power.

The point of the editorial is a legitimate debate over whether we are getting the most bang for our buck out of allocations of power from the Niagara Power Project in Lewiston. Too few companies seem to get too much power for too little jobs.

But then there's this paragraph that catches my attention:

"This is an exciting time in Western New York. Important projects seem to be cropping up everywhere: the Buffalo waterfront, the Southtowns Connector, the Niagara Greenway, the Richardson Towers, the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and others envision a more robust economy not many years away.

But the feather in that cap, in some ways, would be to finally make the best use of the inexpensive power that belongs to this region. That is the key that will open the doors to a new economy. Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer, who has emphasized redevelopment of the upstate economy, should take advantage of this chance to help Western New York without impacting the state budget."

Not one solely Niagara project is mentioned in the list (the Greenway is region-wide) and the sublte implication is that Niagara power should be used to help support these projects. And the power belongs to the region?

Now, someone explain to me exactly why Buffalo has any claim at all to the power. I understand the 30 mile radius in legislation for allocations that touches essentially all of Erie, Niagara and part of Orleans. I'm not looking for a technical argument, I'm looking for a moral argument.

Clearly, Niagara County is impacted by the presence of the power plant. Land is off the tax rolls, there is enviornmental impact, etc. How is Buffalo impacted any more than Rochester or Syracuse? If Buffalo has a claim, why not those areas?

If we're going to talk as one region, then let's see some action. I'll never forget the News opposition to moving the Buffalo Zoo to Oppenheim Park, which would have made great sense. Where was the regionalism then? How about their opposition to the Niagara Falls Terminal Project? How about choosing to support the Huntley Project expansion in Tonawanda over the expansion of AES in Somerset?

I said in the beginning I'm not parochial, but I'm not stupid either. Acting as one region is the right thing to do....but it has to be a two-way street.


fed up in da falls said...

I thought the same thing when I read this. You want to be a big picture thinker and say that all of WNY is in this together, but you somehow can't help but feel we'll get screwed in all of this.

Larry Castellani said...

I guess the reason Hobbes is “looking for a moral argument” is that the legal argument doesn’t seem legitimate in light of the lack of a regional identity and regional trust. Yes? … I agree we need to act as a region but short of some self-understanding in terms of a regional identity there is no moral argument to be made. That is, a moral argument as to why Buffalo might have a “claim” on Niagara power presupposes that we are some sort of moral community with common identity, sense of belonging and common purpose as a region. As a region, if we were to find some unity, there’s only a political argument to be made and of course political action to be carried out. But then again there’s obviously not going to be any meaningful political action until some entity can act in the name of and in the interest of the region without ulterior motives serving certain businesses, the state or the Feds. So it seems that there can be no agreement as to what to do with the ‘power’ legitimately until the political problem is solved with respect to who has the “right” to the natural resource. To me as you might have guessed this means addressing what we really understanding by local sovereignty. The moral issue is a local problem but until there’s a politically determined local identity there is no moral problem.It remains a political problem in which the solutions so far seem to be working against "us."

macmurray said...

And to Larry's point, when this debate turns into a political argument, this region will always lose to the downstate areas that have the true political clout in this state.