River Agency chair wants legislation to allow selling 20 megawatts of power on open market
Thursday, March 21, 2013 - 11:59 am

By JIMMY LAWTON

MASSENA -- River Agency chairman Bob McNeil wants to see legislation that would allow unallocated portions of its 20 megawatts of power to be sold on the open market.

Revenues from the sale would then be used to fund economic development projects in the North Country.

The idea isn't new, according to McNeil, but red tape has stopped the agency from reaching a deal with the New York Power Authority that would allow for the provision.

"NYPA agreed to let us do this when we reached an agreement to establish the St. Lawrence River Valley Redevelopment Agency," he said.

McNeil said the provision was part of an original bargain struck between the agency and NYPA, but has failed to come to fruition because it would require legislation.

In 2010 the River Agency was established and granted $16 million for economic development in the north country by the New York Power Authority as a reconciliation for discrepancies between NYPA's 50-year federal relicensing settlement to operate the St. Lawrence-FDR power dam in Massena and the deal it holds to operate the Niagara hydro dam in Western New York.

The original deal also granted the agency 20 megawatts of electricity produced at the dam, which could be offered to business at a discounted price.

It was also supposed to allow the agency to sell unallocated portions of the power on the open market, with the revenues to be used for economic development projects.

In August of 2012, the Gov. Cuomo approved an agreement to grant the agency the 20 megawatts of power, but the proposal did not include the ability to collect revenues from unallocated portions of the power.

"That's what we were promised all these years ago and Gov. Paterson and Gov. Cuomo said no. Cuomo said we would need legislation to do it."

In 2013, McNeil said the River Agency, hopes it's state representatives will propose and move such legislation forward.

"In Western new York they have 24 megawatts. They have the ability to sell that power and use that money for economic development projects," he said. "We would just like to be treated like Western New York. We would like to see legislation in the state Assembly and Senate that would allow us to do this," he said.

McNeil said a recent proposal made by Sen. Joseph Griffo, who represents eastern St. Lawrence County and Sen. Patricia Ritchie who represents the western half, could be a first step toward such legislation.

The proposed act would allow any unallocated portion of 490 megawatts of "preservation power" produced at the Saint Lawrence FDR power project to be sold on the open market, with the revenues to be used for economic development projects.

While this power is separate from the River Agency's 20 megawatts the legislation would be similar.

"This is completely separate from the legislation we need, but there may be a golden opportunity here get things moving," he said.

McNeil said he is hopeful St. Lawrence County representatives will stand together on the issue and get the governor's approval.