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Future of power coalition questioned

NIAGARA FALLS -- A member of the Niagara Power Coalition has questioned whether the group should stay in operation once its seven components begin receiving low-cost power and cash payments in August under its deal with the State Power Authority.

"I'd like to get a firmer grip on what we expect this coalition to accomplish," Lewiston Supervisor Fred M. Newlin III said at a coalition meeting last week.

The coalition, which consists of Niagara County, the towns of Niagara and Lewiston, the City of Niagara Falls, and the Lewiston-Porter, Niagara-Wheatfield and Niagara Falls school districts, negotiated an agreement providing more than $300 million in payments and low-cost electricity over 50 years in exchange for relicensing the Power Authority's Niagara Power Project in Lewiston.

At last week's meeting, members approved a budget for this year, to be financed from the general funds of its seven members.

It includes more than $350,000 for legal work to cover a number of agreements still to be completed.

While loose ends remain, some members cited a number of reasons for believing the bulk of the coalition's work is done:

Last month, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission unanimously approved the Power Authority's application to continue operating the two-plant Niagara Power Project.

A public hearing is scheduled May 7 on separate power-allocation agreements each member has negotiated with the Power Authority.

The Niagara River Greenway Commission has obtained all the necessary municipal approvals for its plan guiding how money from relicensing settlements will be spent on developing a series of parks, trails and cultural destinations from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario.

Now, various standing committees will be organized to decide on ways to review greenway proposals.

Also, several coalition members are involved in negotiations with National Grid on subsequent agreements to sell any excess low-cost power.

Niagara Falls Mayor Vince Anello appeared to agree with Newlin that those items shouldn't take much more of the group's time.

Coalition members plan to meet as a steering committee to review and choose project applications for the $3 million in annual greenway money that was part of their settlement.

Angelo Massaro, attorney for Niagara Falls schools, suggested delaying discussions on the coalition's future until its members begin receiving payments and power allocations in August.


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