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U.S. OFFICIALS TO CONFER WITH FIRST RESPONDERS ON READINESS

Federal energy officials will meet with members of the Upper Mountain Volunteer Fire Company in Lewiston on Tuesday to ensure its readiness to protect the Niagara Power Project.

The fire company would be the first responder in the event of a terrorist attack at the Lewiston plant and the adjoining 20-billion-gallon reservoir.

The meeting by representatives of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was prompted by demands last week from Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., who said the fire unit is desperately short of Department of Homeland Security funding to deal with potential targets for terrorism in the area.

In addition to the power plant, the fire company would be the first responder in the event of attacks on the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, Mount St. Mary's Hospital in Lewiston, a government storage site containing radioactive material from World War II and Chemical Waste Management, the largest hazardous-waste landfill in the Northeast.

Schumer also called on the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the New York Power Authority to meet with the fire company.

"Upper Mountain volunteers are on the front line in the war on terror," Schumer said. "It is crucial to make sure they have the resources they need to protect us."

Fire company officials said they have received no federal or state funding since requesting it soon after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Fire Chief Lee Casper began expressing concerns last May when Niagara County received only $1.25 million of the $24 million in Homeland Security Department funding that was divided between Erie and Niagara counties.

The $1.25 million is to be divided among several agencies, leaving only $400,000 to be split among 25 fire companies and two ambulance firms, said James C. Volkosh, Niagara County's director of emergency services.

e-mail: bmichelmore@buffnews.com

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