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Delphi will get more low-cost power

Delphi Corp. will receive more low-cost power for its Lockport plant, something the auto parts maker had sought to help reduce its costs.

The New York Power Authority on Tuesday granted Delphi's request for an additional 10 megawatts of low-cost electricity. A megawatt is 1 million watts, and the allocation is enough to power 100,000 100-watt light bulbs.

The increase in cheap power for Delphi was advocated by state and local officials, who said it would help make the plant "cost competitive" as Delphi faces difficult decisions about its future.

Delphi's financial woes have created a cloud of uncertainty over the Lockport plant, which employs 3,800 people. On Tuesday, Michigan-based Delphi reported a $115 million operating loss in January.

Including the latest power allocation, which was approved 5-0 by the trustees, Delphi's Lockport plant receives 24.3 megawatts of low-cost power. It is provided under a Power Authority program known as "expansion power," designed to help companies that create or protect jobs.

Last October, Gov. George E. Pataki offered a multimillion-dollar package of grants and other incentives to Delphi, aimed at keeping the plant viable. The low-cost megawatts were part of that offer.

State Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, who attended Tuesday's Power Authority meeting in White Plains with Lockport Mayor Michael Tucker, said the allocation was a good example of using a locally generated resource to support a local employer.

"I think this is a huge step forward," he said.

Maziarz said he recently joined Tucker and Pataki on a conference call with Robert "Steve" Miller, chief executive officer of Delphi. Miller told them low-cost power was important to the Lockport plant, Maziarz recalled.

"Any addition would be helpful to them in their decision-making process," Maziarz said.

One of the other two issues mentioned by Miller, reducing Worker's Compensation costs, is unresolved. The third issue Miller identified, economic incentives, would be connected to Delphi's job decisions in Lockport, Maziarz said.

Tucker, who is also a Delphi employee, said reducing power costs can only help the Lockport plant's case. "This is going to be part of the equation," he said.

A Delphi spokesman, Lindsey Williams, said the company sees the allocation as an important step, but he said it was only one of several factors the company is considering as it tries to make itself competitive. The company still has not made any announcements about its facilities, he noted.

"This represents the potential of major savings at that location, pending the outcome of the talks," Williams said, referring to three-way negotiations between Delphi, the United Auto Workers and General Motors.

Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, said the power allocation was an effective use of Niagara power to help local industry.

"By acting proactively and aggressively, we are better positioned to allow Western New York to stem the tide of future retrenchment and job losses, and ensure that our manufacturing work force is able to retain the good-paying jobs that support working families throughout this region," Higgins said in a statement.

Rep. Thomas Reynolds, R-Clarence, also applauded Tuesday's vote. "This allocation of low-cost electricity will ensure that the Lockport facility remains cost-competitive with other states," he said in a statement.


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