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Legislature studying power sharing

The Niagara County Legislature has set aside for now the notion of revoking low-cost power allocations to the county's Water and Sewer districts, but it could happen later.

Legislator Peter E. Smolinski, R-North Tonawanda, withdrew his proposal to take away the districts' share of the county's settlement with the New York Power Authority during a meeting Wednesday of the Legislature's Economic Development Committee.

Instead, a small review committee of legislators and other county officials, including County Manager Gregory D. Lewis, will recommend to the Legislature who should receive the power, currently priced at 0.9 cents per kilowatt-hour.

The terms of the county's bilateral agreement with the Power Authority, ratified in February, allow the county to set the ultimate users of the 9 megawatts of low-cost electricity it is to receive, starting Sept. 1, under terms of the authority's new 50-year license to operate the Niagara Power Project.

The county can change the list of recipients with 30 days' notice. It also can change how the benefits are received with 60 days' notice to the Power Authority.

The deal says the county doesn't have to take electricity; it can receive the equivalent value in cash or power credits. Assistant County Attorney R. Thomas Burgasser said, "The county, unless this committee changes its mind, is for power credits."

Smolinski said the credits can be used not only toward the county's electric bills, but also can be applied toward all other forms of energy, even gasoline for the county's vehicle fleet.

He projected that if the county took all the credits for itself and froze out the Water and Sewer districts, county property taxes could be cut by 4 percent to 8 percent.

But under terms of the last resolution the Legislature passed on the subject, the districts are promised an allocation of power unless the county decides it needs the electricity for an economic development project.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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