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NIAGARA MOHAWK PLAN WILL HURT THE ENVIRONMENT

I would like to congratulate The News on its balanced editorial about the recent Niagara Mohawk restructuring settlement. This agreement has positive features aimed at reducing the cost of electricity, which is urgently needed in the Niagara Region. But, as the editorial points out, the settlement has serious environmental problems that must be addressed prior to approval by the New York State Public Service Commission.

There is strong public support for energy efficiency and the use of solar, wind and other renewable energy technologies in order to minimize our dependence on foreign oil and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels that cause acid rain and greenhouse-gas emissions.

Many studies have shown that energy efficiency is critical to our economy and to job creation. Energy efficiency means lower energy bills and more local jobs in engineering design and the building trades.

Lower energy costs and energy-efficiency strategies will help our businesses become more competitive, preserving and creating jobs in the long run.

The plan calls for NiMo to sell its power-generating plants, except for its nuclear power plants. The final agreement must stipulate that NiMo's coal-burning plants will be cleaned up before they are sold. If these plants remain polluters, how can we tell Ohio and other upwind regions that we don't want their acid rain and that they must clean up their plants?

Since competition and choice are the major goals of restructuring the electric industry, consumers will be called by competing power companies. But unless consumers are informed about the fuels used to produce the electricity and the pollution created by each fuel, they will not be able to choose the "cleanest" electricity available.

The PSC should mandate disclosure of emissions and require that a fixed percent of electricity sold be produced by solar, wind or renewable technologies, gradually increasing the percent of clean energy sold.

Our organization's recent experience with the outpouring of local interest in the National Tour of Solar Homes reinforces my belief that the public overwhelmingly supports the development of non-polluting renewable solar energy.

However, the Niagara Mohawk settlement calls for only enough wind and solar energy to produce a small wind farm with some solar electric panels. This inadequate response stands in stark contrast to the international call for serious action to slow global warming.

In addition, electric rates based on "the more you use the cheaper it gets" should be rejected because they encourage energy waste. The proposal to cut the "efficiency fund" that supports energy-efficiency initiatives, including the low-income home-weatherization program, to about one-third of the amount spent in 1994 is unacceptable.

We call upon state lawmakers to ensure that the final agreement with Niagara Mohawk stands squarely behind the environmental objectives of clean air, energy efficiency and renewable energy technology development.

JOAN BOZER Co-chair, Western New York
Sustainable Energy Association
Buffalo

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