By Frank Parlato Jr.
If you didn’t live here, this would be funny.
Q: What do these 16 states have in common: Idaho , West Virginia , Washington , Kentucky , Oregon , Utah , Missouri , Tennessee , North Dakota , Indiana , South Dakota , Wyoming , Nebraska , Minnesota , Virginia , and Montana ?
A: The people in these states pay half what we pay for electricity. That’s funny-- considering we have the Niagara – the greatest electricity-producing river in the world.
It’s not the river’s fault. It’s the Corporation that controls the power production of that river. Its name is the New York Power Authority (NYPA) a corporation – whose board of directors are appointed by Albany politicians. NYPA has controlled our power for nearly 50 years.
Once upon a time, we controlled it locally. We offered an incentive to business, industry and people to come here- cheap, abundant electrical power. Not coincidentally, from the time NYPA took over, in 1957, to the present, we went from having the cheapest electricity in America to the third highest.
Now we have a chance to regain our power: NYPA’s license expires this August, and they want another 50 years. We should, as I have repeatedly written in the Gazette, not renew their license!
My remarks have prompted the President of NYPA, Mr. Timothy S. Carey, to decry the ‘shame” of my “negative perspective,” and to attempt to rebut it, in this paper, by listing the “benefits” of NYPA to greater Niagara .
For instance, Mr. Carey writes, “More than 70 percent of the region’s (ever-shrinking) manufacturing jobs (123 companies) benefit from low-cost Niagara hydropower.” Unhappily, Mr. Carey’s “low cost” is misleading. You’ll laugh at this, perhaps, but “low cost” to NYPA’s president means that 123 “favored” NYPA customers pay what industrial customers pay in many other states. That’s right: our normal rates are so high- that when NYPA’s president speaks of “low rates” – he means market rates paid elsewhere in America .
Still, even if 123 companies get a politically-tinged favor from NYPA, the remainder of our local industry must pay exorbitant rates. According to the US Dept. of Energy, (www.eia.doe.gov) industrial customers in 32 states pay from one-third to one-half less than what industrial customers pay in WNY.
But that’s industry. And we lost most of that during the last 50 years. How about where it counts, in our homes? Mr. Carey writes that NYPA “provides savings to residential electricity customers.” His comment is laughable. If these “savings” were fact – why do we pay the third highest rates for residential electricity in America ? (Only Connecticut and Hawaii pay more.) Why do we pay more for electricity than places that do not naturally produce electricity? Eight neighboring states get power from the Niagara . What is New Jersey , for instance, doing for us that we should provide them with cheap power?
Mr. Carey shifts, semi-apologetically, to argue that the high rates (formerly he called them “savings”) are not NYPA’s fault. He writes that state and federal licenses dictate “who may be supplied with hydropower.” NYPA can’t deliver low rates locally because almost every kilowatt must, by license, “benefit the state as a whole” (as determined by Albany ), or go to neighboring states.
Whoever heard of a place that had an abundance of anything (power, water, apples, whatever) where the people living closest to it paid more for the product than anyone else? I call it the “NYPA-effect.”
In the end, no one argues better for evicting NYPA than its president. After admitting that NYPA can’t deliver low rates, Mr. Carey, in mitigation, claims “an extensive array of (local) benefits.” He lists the millions NYPA spent fixing up their own Power Vista, and removing coal furnaces in Buffalo Schools, and installing energy-efficient refrigerators in public housing in Buffalo, and millions donated to Albany to help our local state parks- for which we already pay taxes to support.
As a final inducement, Mr. Carey tempts us by saying NYPA will donate $7 million annually for 50 years for a so-called “Greenway” if we agree to re-licensing. Having a strip of green along the river is great, but, realistically, that money will be funneled into patronage under Albany control. More significantly, $7 million for the Greenway is more than the $5 million per year (never to be adjusted for inflation- for 50 years), NYPA is offering all of Niagara County -- in return for giving up our billion dollar a year asset.
Instead of low-cost electricity in our homes, we’re offered an Albany- run “Greenway;” refrigerators in Buffalo public housing; a free Power Vista for us to see how they make the power which we don’t get to use; and our local power profits used to support local state parks so our local tax dollars can be used in other parts of the state.
In exchange for the above list of “benefits,” we are asked to give NYPA another 50 years of control, with its resultant, bizarre “NYPA-effect:” high electrical rates in a land where cheap, abundant electrical power is produced. Only NYPA and its president could suggest it with a straight face.
Frank Parlato Jr. is a Niagara Falls businessman. His Gazette articles on NYPA, can be read on www.frankparlato.info