LIVERPOOL, N.Y., May 2, 2002 — New York Power Authority (NYPA) President and Chief Executive Officer Eugene W. Zeltmann said Tuesday night that energy legislation recently passed by the Senate marks “a promising first step” toward reforming the federal hydroelectric relicensing process, but that more needs to be done.
Noting that hydroelectric operators “face costly delays and withering demands from existing regulations,” Zeltmann told the state Municipal Electric Utilities Association (MEUA) that the Senate bill is an improvement over legislation passed by the House last year.
“The new bill would still allow federal agencies to set mandatory environmental conditions for new licenses,” he said at the MEUA’s semiannual meeting at the Holiday Inn Convention Center. “But it would give applicants greater ability to meet those conditions in ways that would reduce effects on costs or power production.”
Zeltmann said NYPA has a direct interest in the legislation since it applied last October for a new federal license for its 800-megawatt St. Lawrence-Franklin D. Roosevelt hydroelectric project at Massena and is about to begin the relicensing process for its 2,400-megawatt hydro project near Niagara Falls. The facilities’ existing licenses expire in 2003 and 2007, respectively.
Zeltmann said he hoped the relicensing provision in the Senate bill would survive in conference committee negotiations with the House. Beyond that, he said, NYPA supports legislation proposed by Congressman Ed Towns of Brooklyn and Senator Larry Craig of Idaho that “would go considerably further in balancing energy, economic and environmental needs and would help to ease the protracted delays that often mark the licensing process.”
The MEUA, whose member systems receive low-cost hydroelectric power from the Niagara project, also backs this legislation.
As it did at St. Lawrence-FDR, Zeltmann said that NYPA hopes to implement an alternative to the traditional relicensing process at Niagara that would enable interested parties to become involved long before an application for a new license is submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
“We’re confident that this approach will help to assure that all with an interest in Niagara’s relicensing are heard, that issues are identified and discussed and that we work together to resolve matters of concern,” said Zeltmann, who noted that FERC approval of the alternative process is pending.
In addition to urging MEUA participation in the Niagara relicensing, Zeltmann asked Association members to support efforts undertaken by NYPA, at Gov. George E. Pataki’s direction, to promote economic development and energy efficiency in their service territories.
He said more than 77 megawatts are available under a NYPA program to use low-cost power to create jobs at businesses locating or expanding in municipal system and rural cooperative territories in New York State. About 2,000 jobs have been created thus far under the program, which began with 108 megawatts. The most recent allocation, to the Plattsburgh municipal system in February, will enable Lakeside Container Corp., a family-owned corrugated products business, to nearly quadruple employment over the next three years.
In addition, Zeltmann said, NYPA is supporting Governor Pataki’s efforts to encourage energy efficiency by helping to fund and promote the “Keep Cool” initiative, which provides $75 to New Yorkers who replace old air conditioners with efficient models carrying the federal Energy Star label. Thanks to NYPA involvement, the municipal systems’ residential customers can participate in the program, which is also open to consumers served by investor-owned utilities.