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Power Coalition queries authority on payments

The Niagara Power Coalition last week wondered whether the New York Power Authority is paying its members all that it should.

The relicensing agreement that took effect in 2007 requires the authority to pay the seven coalition members a total of at least $5 million a year for 50 years.

So far, all the annual payments have been exactly $5 million, said R. Thomas Burgasser, assistant Niagara County attorney.

But at the coalition's annual meeting last week, the question was raised about how the Power Authority calculates those payments, and the members decided to ask.

Stanley W. Widger Jr., the coalition's attorney, said the authority is supposed to earmark a certain amount of electricity from the Niagara Power Project, sell it on the open market and obtain the $5 million.

The coalition wants to know how that amount of electricity is figured.

There is no suspicion that the Power Authority is shorting the coalition on the cash payments, Widger said, but the relicensing agreement says that if the electricity sale brings in more than $5 million, the seven members are to receive the extra money.

On the other hand, if the sale brings in less than $5 million, the entities are paid $5 million, anyway.

The seven members are Niagara County; the City of Niagara Falls; the Niagara Falls, Niagara Wheatfield and Lewiston-Porter school districts; and the towns of Lewiston and Niagara.

Burgasser said he believed that 25 megawatts was supposed to be set aside to make the $5 million. That's the same amount the authority provides to coalition members for their use. He noted that if the coalition is ever paid more than $5 million, the authority can take the overage back in a future year when the proceeds of the sale are below that amount.

The $5 million is divided according to a formula set in the relicensing agreement: 17 percent each for Lewiston and the City of Niagara Falls; 14.5 percent for Lew-Port; 13.5 percent for the Niagara Falls schools; 13 percent each for the county and the Town of Niagara; and 12 percent for Niagara Wheatfield.

Those payments are in addition to the $3 million the Power Authority must pay each year to the host communities' Greenway fund, which is divided up among the entities by a slightly different formula.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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