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Get back cheap power for area's economy

I don't know if anyone has it right as to what happened to all that cheap power that became available as a result of the existing hydro plant caving into the river in the 1950s.

It is my instant recall that there was a block of low-cost power, called replacement power, available to those local industries that had to convert from 25-cycle power to 60-cycle power, since 25-cycle power would not be available from the new power plant.

Then there was another block of very inexpensive power available, called expansion power, that became available to industries within a 50-mile radius to encourage the expansion of industries in the area.

We all know what happened to industry in the area over the last 20 to 30 years. It simply moved out because of the high cost of doing business in the area, and in New York State as a matter of fact. The point of this letter is that it is not too late to do something about getting all this cheap power back into the local economy.

I heard from a concerned citizen a couple of months ago at the Niagara Falls Council meeting that we tend to think that things are the way they are and we hesitate to make the changes because we sometimes feel that there is nothing we can do about it.

Well, things aren't the way they seem to be, and we can make changes to bring this local economy back to what it was in the past. One area of concentration is to get the cheap power back into this economy, not transferring it across the state and to other states in the nation.

Cheaper power was given to this area by law or agreement with the Power Authority back in the late '50s, and because industry moved out it was squandered away and not given to the local citizens who are paying more for power here than in most areas of the country.

We don't have the advantage of nice weather as they do in the South. Our education system is no longer the best in the country. We no longer have cheaper labor that is available in the southern states, and no longer the skills that went south when industry left. The question is, what can we do about it?

We chose to focus on tourism a long time ago. It's still a good vision, but we need to get industry back within the stated 50-mile radius of the power plant. I recently learned that only half of the cheap power is being considered for the local economy, whereas 100 percent was prescribed back in the '50s. This is an opportunity for our local and state representatives to do something about it: Get it all back!

Jesse D. Sabin



AES tax deal needs to be rescinded

The Niagara USA Chamber of Commerce should be ashamed of the full page ad that ran in Niagara County Sunday papers in favor of one large multinational corporation and to the detriment of small businesses across the county.

Small business members will see higher county taxes. The AES [payment in lieu of taxes] is providing no new jobs, no new construction and no benefit to Niagara County. In fact, the AES PILOT will force the loss of jobs at the Barker Central School; up to 15 jobs lost in the first year alone.

The Chamber puts at jeopardy any future PILOTS for business development when it promotes this out-of-control IDA and this illegal PILOT.

They obviously did not consult the members of the Chamber, nor did they check the half-truths that AES has been feeding them.

The truth is the IDA gave away $95 million in tax revenue for AES to add to its profit margin, and the [AES-filed tax grievance] lawsuit's worst case scenario loss was only $45 million. AES was likely to lose the assessment lawsuits, and that is why they pursued this PILOT.

Let the court decide, and you will see that county taxpayers will be the fair winners with AES simply paying their fair share, just like homeowners.

AES is trying to use a tax settlement lawsuit with the Mirant Corp. power plant in Rockland County as a comparison to the AES Somerset plant. [News business reporter] David Robinson cited this in the Jan. 9 Buffalo News, and AES has been shopping it to legislators and the chairman of the Niagara USA Chamber.

Here is why this is spurious and an inappropriate ad:

1. The Mirant tax situation was during 1995 to 2003, during deregulation, when plant values were lower. Deregulation is not a factor today.

2. The plant was in bankruptcy and was shut down. The Texas federal bankruptcy court threatened to take over jurisdiction if assessment was not lowered. AES Somerset, and its parent company, are extremely profitable.

3. The Mirant plant was over 50 years old, and had been uneconomical to run. It was also a heavy polluter and had been shut down many times. The current AES plant is up-to-date technically and running fine, and is expected to generate as much as $194.7 million in net cash flow for 2006.

4. The valuation was on an old assessment that wasn't valid at the time. The valuation of the AES plant is current, and is updated yearly by the New York State Office of Real Property Services and and Black & Veatch.

5. A replacement plant would have been a co-generation plant and would have cost about half the price to build. AES has said that a new plant on their site would cost $1 billion to build, roughly the same as the full $1.149 billion the state values its existing plant.

If the Chamber wants to truly bring new business to Niagara County, then the members of the Chamber should support rescinding the AES PILOT.

If AES decides to build a second coal plant, windmills or other projects, then the assessed value on the new projects will help lower their taxes on the existing plant without hurting the county, the Town of Somerset or the Barker School District, as the current PILOT does. The Chamber should print a retraction and apologize to Chamber members for this ad.

Merrill Bender


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