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City to seek more compensation from Power Project deal

WASHINGTON Attorneys for the City of Buffalo plan to ask the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to boost the city's compensation in the relicensing of the Niagara Power Project.

Richard E. Stanton, a lawyer for the city, said Monday that Buffalo plans to file "a motion to intervene" in the negotiated settlement of the license, which would bring a coalition of Niagara County governments about $1 billion over 50 years.

The New York Power Authority presented Buffalo and Erie County a $2 million-a-year take-it-or-leave-it offer, which the city contends is far less than it deserves.

"We're trying to protect our rights" and increase the amount of money coming to Buffalo, Stanton said.

The city's move a legal step that Stanton equated to joining a lawsuit -- might slow down the federal agency's approval of a new license for the project.

If it pressures the Power Authority into increasing its offer, or if the federal agency thinks Buffalo's complaint is obviously unworthy, there might be no delay. But the city's action could also prompt the federal agency to spend more time investigating what's due Buffalo in the relicensing process. The current license expires Aug. 31, 2007.

While Rep. Brian M. Higgins, D-Buffalo, is demanding $1 billion in compensation for Buffalo and Erie County, Stanton declined to say how much the city will be asking for in its filing with the federal agency, which will be submitted in about three weeks.

The city's submission will be based in large part on research on the Niagara River ice boom's impact on Buffalo, Stanton said. Ecology and Environment, an environmental consultant based in Lancaster, is performing that research.

The city contends that the ice boom, which is stretched across Lake Erie at the start of the Niagara River to prevent ice buildup downriver at the power plant, lowers the water temperature by about 2 degrees, Stanton said.

Since that is the city's water supply, the colder temperatures mean colder pipes and higher heating bills for city residents and businesses, he added.

In response, Brian Vattimo, senior vice president of the Power Authority, said the authority continues to maintain that the ice boom has no serious impact on Buffalo.

"We feel confident in our application" for a new license for the power plant, Vattimo said.

In addition to requesting compensation for the ice boom, Stanton said the city will argue that it deserves something in return for the Power Authority's exclusive right to hydropower produced from the Niagara River.

"We might be interested in developing a hydropower project of our own," he said.


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