CANTON – The St. Lawrence River Valley Redevelopment Agency is once again appealing to state lawmakers to pass legislation allowing proceeds of the sale of low-cost hydropower to be used for economic development.
The River Agency and St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency adopted a joint resolution Tuesday requesting that legislation.
We have been in talks with representatives, but so far we havent had any legislation, River Agency Chairman Robert O. McNeil. We would like to see this happen this legislative session.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo last year approved an agreement allowing the New York Power Authority to release 20 megawatts of low-cost power to the River Agency for economic development. The agency had already received $16 million from NYPA as part of a previous agreement. The money and power were sought as a means to make up for inequities between the NYPAs 2003 relicensing settlement to operate the St. Lawrence-FDR power project in Massena and its settlement to operate the Niagara hydrodam in Western New York.
The River Agency, as part of its initial agreement with NYPA for the money and power, had sought to sell whatever power was not being used to aid businesses and use the proceeds for other initiatives. The first agreement was rejected by Gov. David A. Paterson because selling the power and giving the proceeds to the River Agency was outside the scope of NYPAs powers under state law.
Language allowing the sale of the power was left out of the agreement that was ultimately approved by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
The River Agency is as a result seeking state legislation allowing the power to be sold and its proceeds used to spur growth.
The legislation River Agency and IDA officials seek mimics another measure that has already been approved for Western New York. The seven host communities of the Niagara project annually receive $5 million from the sale of 24 megawatts of power.
That money goes directly to the general fund of those communities, Mr. McNeil said. We want to be able to do the same thing, but the difference is that monetization would go toward economic development. We just want the agreement we all originally agreed to to be implemented.
Being able to use proceeds from the sale of unuallocated power has been central to the River Agencys plan to fund its projects.
I think it is important that everyone realizes, that even though we were granted $16 million three years ago for economic development, there are operating costs that are associated with doing that, River Agency board member Vernon D. Sam Burns, Ogdensburg, said.
By having the ability to monetize either all or some of the 20 megs it will certainly help us move forward, giving a source of revenue that will sustain the River Agency in the future, so that we can provide more jobs.
Mr. McNeil said selling unused power would give the River Agency more money to put toward community development grants. On Tuesday, the River Agency awarded $538,032 in community grants and loans. Under its agreement with NYPA, 5 percent of the agencys budget is annually spent on community projects.
Mr. McNeil said he plans to meet with state lawmakers in the next few weeks in hopes of getting legislation introduced.