There is money in the bank for Western New York millions of dollars for economic development that is just out of reach. The Buffalo Niagara Partnership is leading an effort to reel that money in. That work is important and deserves the region's support.
That cache of money is produced at the Niagara Power Project, the Lewiston power plant that generates some of the nation's cheapest electricity, little of which actually benefits this region. That has been a sore spot here for decades, but a new law will help to ease that pain.
Legislation passed in 2010, and given necessary tweaks with this year's budget, requires the proceeds from the sale of two blocs of unallocated or unused power be directed toward economic development in an area within 30 miles of the Niagara County plant. That money, from the Replacement Power and Expansion Power programs, is currently valued around $15 million -- and growing -- and is just waiting for the required creation of a five-member panel that will determine how to spend those funds. The Partnership is pushing for that panel -- called the Western New York Power Proceeds Allocation Board -- to be appointed quickly so it can get to work.
The board is to be appointed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, with the Senate and Assembly each recommending one member. At least three of the members must live within a 30-mile radius of the plant. With First Niagara President and CEO John R. Koelmel about to become chairman of the New York Power Authority -- operator of the power plant -- that makes this an auspicious moment for Western New York and its ability simultaneously to take better advantage of one of its premier resources while developing its underperforming economy.
The money is ours, morally as well as legally. All that is needed is for the board to be created and for it to get to work. There is no advantage in delay.
The region's delegation to Albany needs to make sure legislative leaders and Cuomo move swiftly to put this program into effect. They certainly understand the importance of it. Cuomo has already pledged $1 billion to bolster Buffalo's economy. That is welcome, indeed, but it is going to be a heavy lift. The revenue from unallocated and unused power is money -- cash -- that is already there, just waiting on him to put the board together.
We understand that things happen slowly in government, and sometimes that's necessary. But this region is full of competent, diligent leaders who would be ready to serve on this board and see that the money starts flowing. With the money mandated to go towards economic development, Western New York has an important new asset that is just waiting to be primed. Let's get on with it.