Idea would combine licensing steps, shorten process
LEWISTON, N.Y., March 11, 2002 — The New York Power Authority (NYPA) has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to approve an alternative approach to the relicensing of the Niagara hydroelectric project here that will allow interested parties to participate in the process from the beginning.
“Traditionally, community leaders and other individuals and groups haven’t had opportunities for involvement in the licensing process until after hydroelectric operators have submitted their license applications to FERC,” said Louis P. Ciminelli, NYPA acting chairman.
“The alternative licensing approach will solicit their input starting with the pre-application phase, ensuring that the application reflects the concerns and priorities of the various stakeholders. That should also speed things along once the application is completed and subject to FERC review.”
NYPA noted in its March 6 filing with FERC that it has engaged in an “extensive outreach effort” over the past six months with various parties that may have an interest in Niagara’s relicensing, including federal and state resource agencies, the Tuscarora Nation, the project’s industrial and municipal customers, federal, state and local officials and other organized local groups.
Niagara’s current 50-year license expires in 2007. The project is the largest generator of electricity in New York State, providing some of the lowest cost electricity in the country. Its power is linked to approximately 50,000 jobs at more than 100 businesses in Niagara, Erie and Chautauqua counties.
“The Power Authority’s proposal will improve communications among all interested parties in the relicensing process,” said U.S. Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds. “It is my opinion that the Alternative Licensing Procedures can only benefit our region.”
“The alternative procedures may lead to more up-front work, but the rewards make it worth the effort. It should assure that all stakeholders in Niagara’s relicensing have a chance for their voices to be heard during the formative stages of the process,” said U.S. Rep. John LaFalce.
“Niagara’s relicensing is an important subject to Western New Yorkers,” said State Senator George Maziarz. “It cuts across numerous issues, including the economy, the environment and recreation. That’s why I’m pleased that the Power Authority is planning a relicensing approach that will provide for the active involvement of numerous leaders from our community.”
“The Power Authority has gotten off to a good start in Niagara’s relicensing with its procedural filing this week with FERC,” said Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte. “It demonstrates NYPA’s strong commitment to develop a relicensing application that accurately reflects the issues that are most important to Western New Yorkers.”
“The pre-application phase is probably the most critical period of the relicensing, because it’s when the various issues are identified and fully fleshed out,” said Mark Zito, president, Niagara Power Coalition. “The fact that NYPA is seeking approval for a process that will enhance public involvement is a promising start that I hope we’ll be able to build on in the months ahead.”
“I’m delighted that the Power Authority is planning to use alternative licensing procedures instead of a traditional, less inclusive approach,” said Steve Richards, supervisor, Town of Niagara. “The consensus that is likely to emerge from the alternative process will help assure that the final license application treats the various issues in a comprehensive and fair manner.”
“NYPA is on the right track in planning for the alternative licensing approach,” said Sandra Maslen, supervisor, Town of Lewiston. “It will help guarantee that the local communities are empowered through the course of the relicensing and that our interests are well served.”
“The size and scope of the Niagara project means that the relicensing is going to garner the attention of a long list of stakeholders,” said Andrew J. Rudnick, president and CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership. “We feel an open process that fosters communication between NYPA and the stakeholders affords the best opportunity for fair resolution to many of the issues that will undoubtedly be raised during the relicensing process.”
“I’m hopeful that FERC will act quickly in approving the alternative licensing process,” said Samuel M. Ferraro, co-chair of the Western New York Relicensing Consensus Committee. “It’s the right approach for addressing issues and affording stakeholders and interested parties an opportunity to participate in Niagara’s relicensing.”
“We enthusiastically embrace the Power Authority’s decision to pursue the alternative relicensing process for its Niagara Project,” said Phil Wilcox, secretary, Western New York AFL-CIO Economic Development Group. “The alternative process affords the best opportunity for inclusion of the community’s thoughts in a final license application, and underscores the Power Authority’s commitment to the residents of the Niagara Region.”
“A project of the size and significance as Niagara should be accorded special treatment, so I applaud the Power Authority’s decision to pursue the alternative licensing strategy,” said Kevin J. Clarke, chairman, Power For Economic Prosperity. “It means that the project’s industrial customers and other area groups will have a real opportunity to influence the course of the relicensing.”
The Power Authority noted in its FERC filing that work is under way to develop an initial information package for distribution to relicensing stakeholders by late 2002 or early 2003. Referred to as a First Stage Consultation Report, the package will be accompanied by an initial information meeting that together will mark the formal start of the alternative licensing process.
The Power Authority is the largest state-owned public power organization in the country, with hydroelectric and fossil-fueled generating facilities around the state and more than 1,400 circuit miles of transmission lines.