By Kelsey Hanks:
$15 million available to start and an estimated $7 million in cash annually, strictly for economic development in our region – that’s the impact of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership’s Hydropower ‘Proceeds’ legislation being included in the 2012-13 New York State budget.
The passage of Proceeds took a decade of sustained effort coordinated by the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, involving volunteers, Partnership staff, consultants, and state officials.
The newly-passed law mandates that ‘net proceeds’ from the sale of unallocated or unused hydropower from the Niagara Power Project in Lewiston, NY be used for economic development purposes within a 30-mile radius of the plant – including the entire City of Buffalo. Previously, unallocated hydropower was sold by the New York Power Authority (NYPA) on the open market, with proceeds going to NYPA-chosen projects across the state.
The Proceeds law transfers decision making from NYPA to a five-member committee, called the WNY Power Allocations Board. Three of the five appointees must live within 30 miles of the Power Project, and the group will be appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature.
The Buffalo Niagara Partnership recently held a celebration at The Mansion on Delaware to thank those who were instrumental in the passage of Hydropower ‘Proceeds’ legislation in the 2012-13 New York State budget.
The Partnership recognized its Proceeds volunteers led by Dennis Elsenbeck of National Grid; elected officials including State Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak; State Senator George Maziarz; Governors Andrew Cuomo and David Paterson; and U.S. Representatives Brian Higgins and Kathy Hochul; professional advisors Richard Tobe, Paul Tokasz and Mark Meyerhofer; as well as Partnership staffers AJ Wright and Hadley Horrigan.
“At a time where cash is in limited supply as an economic development tool – most incentives are tax credits nowadays – this money is real, reoccurring, and dedicated to our region,” said A.J. Wright, Government Affairs Manager at the Buffalo Niagara Partnership. “The Partnership, with the help of member volunteers, paid consultants, and legislative sponsors, has been the champion of this effort since Day One, and our increased advocacy efforts are beginning to show real results. Proceeds is one of our best ‘results’, and we are looking forward to seeing its positive impact on the Buffalo Niagara economy come to fruition.”
Proceeds is estimated to generate $7 million to facilitate economic development projects each year. Even better, Proceeds funds are “real cash” at a time when most economic development programs take the form of abatements and credits.
In 2010, the bill, introduced by Senator George Maziarz and Assemblymember Dennis Gabryszak, passed in the State Assembly and Senate and was signed into law by Governor David Paterson, but progress was held up by bureaucratic opposition.
Following the nearly-successful 2010 effort, hydropower proceeds have been held in escrow, and now total approximately$15 million waiting to help expand regional business, accelerate job growth and investment. The balance of funds generated from proceeds is ‘real money’ dedicated solely to economic development, at a time when most economic development tools are non-cash and in the form of tax incentives or credits.