The request to have the New York Power Authority audit the communities that have benefited from the 2007 relicensing of the Niagara Power Project seems reasonable. Huge amounts of money are involved, and the public should know that it’s being used wisely.
The bill, to have NYPA or someone hired by NYPA do the audit by June 1, 2014, passed the State Legislature, and now the governor should sign it.
George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, introduced the bill after the seven members of the Niagara Power Coalition declined to perform their own audits. He is not insinuating any money has been stolen; he wants to verify how the money is being spent. Under the relicensing agreement, $5 million in cash and 25 megawatts of power annually is shared by the coalition members: $850,000 each to the City of Niagara Falls and the Town of Lewiston; $725,000 to the Lewiston-Porter School District; $675,000 to the Niagara Falls School District; $650,000 each to the county and the Town of Niagara; and $600,000 to the Niagara Wheatfield School District. In addition to the cash, some sell their unused power. For example, Lew-Port earned $384,410 from 2008 to 2012 from power sales.
Communities should welcome the audit. Not everyone is opposed to the idea. Niagara County Legislature Chairman William L. Ross, C-Wheatfield, for one, said the audit bill is acceptable. As Ross said, this isn’t Niagara Power Coalition member funds.
The cash and power are separate from the $3 million a year designated for Greenway projects.
Maziarz’s bill does not address criticism of the use of Greenway funds for projects far from the Niagara River. Legislation to address those concerns, sponsored by Assemblyman Sean M. Ryan, D-Buffalo, and Sen. Mark J. Grisanti, R-Buffalo, failed to pass the Legislature. That legislation should be brought up again next year.
Maziarz just wants to know where the relicensing power and cash are going. He wants to see listed every transaction made with NYPA’s payments and power allocations, and whether any jobs were created or what other benefit was “provided to the community as a whole.”
It’s certainly a fair request, and one that will show once and for all whether communities have been using the power and cash wisely.