The New York Power Authority, reflecting its continued unreasonable attitude, has now snubbed Buffalo, Erie County and Congress. The authority directed its latest shot at Sen. Charles E. Schumer by refusing his request to meet with the region's congressional delegation.
NYPA Chairman Joseph J. Seymour later apologized to Schumer and agreed to meet. That's better, however late, because it's the authority's job to respond to the people and their representatives, not the reverse. This is a state authority controlled by Gov. George E. Pataki and he ought to step in as well. Schumer reasonably wants discussion of ways to augment the authority's "highly disconcerting" offer to Buffalo and Erie County of $2 million a year in Niagara Power Project relicensing compensation for 50 years.
The authority, the two governments and Niagara University have yet to reach an agreement. A host of interests led by Rep. Brian M. Higgins of Buffalo wants the amount increased to $10 million a year through new federal reauthorization legislation. But Schumer is right in hoping to negotiate an increase instead of risking power grabs by other states if the federal law is reopened. The most important goal, though, is getting fairer compensation for 50 years of impacts from power production using this region's assets.
An increase in that compensation should come soon, and not through higher electricity prices for local industries now using discounted power, as the authority threatens, but from Niagara profits. Whether those annual profits amount to the more than $560 million in the authority's application filings, or the $60 million it says is the real profit, more money should be reinvested in the project's home region.
Higgins' idea of putting that funding in the hands of a local waterfront development authority, the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., is a good way to do that without dropping the cash into a black hole of local government general spending.