February 2, 2010

NYPA Still Doesn’t Get It

We were dismayed to learn that our old friend Richard “Call me Richie” Kessel’s BS hasn’t changed much, even with Sen. George Maziarz in a position to really start having an impact on his decision-making process. The problem is, he started so many bad processes in motion before Maziarz became head of the Senate Energy Committee that it’s going to take some serious efforts to rein him in.
Oh, sure, Richie told us back in July that he really, really wants to help Niagara County. He really, really wants to help us reap greater benefits from the power generated here, using our natural resources. It’s just that old habits die hard.
And taking care of his old buddies on Long Island is Richie’s oldest habit of all, dating to his not-so-long-ago tenure heading up the Long Island Power Authority.
It seems that, back in December, Richie decided it would be a great idea to give away some more of the hydropower produced here in Lewiston to downstate interests. Local leaders like the Legislature’s Economic Development Committee Chairman Rick Updegrove, Chairman Bill Ross, and Economic Development Commissioner Sam Ferraro are trying to persuade NYPA to provide a little more energy for things like local economic development. The county’s “Empower Niagara” program has helped create a significant number of local jobs. So did NYPA acceding to demands that it help entice Yahoo! and Globe Specialty Metals to our region. The net effect has been hundreds of jobs coming to the region.
When local officials approached NYPA for a couple more megawatts, they were told sorry, no deal, there’s none to spare.
So how the hell does Richie justify giving power for free to a federal agency? This isn’t some business that is looking at its balance sheets. It’s a big, politically-protected federal laboratory run by, of all things, the U.S. Department of Energy. And Richie decides to give them low-cost electricity. To us, that seems like giving ice to an Eskimo.
To make matters worse, though, Richie only scheduled hearings on this matter in Long Island. Yeah, there will be some useful introspection there. That’s sorta like the cops asking a mugger if he feels like his victim had enough money in his wallet.
This week, Maziarz called out NYPA and demanded local hearings, and given his new oversight role over energy issues in the state, we’re willing to be he gets his way. He’s right to do so. But that’s only half the equation.
If we get our hearings, local residents need to turn out in force and make sure Richie delivers on his promises. And they sure as hell need to tell Richie that Barack Obama’s Energy Department doesn’t need free electricity.

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