Somerset: WNY leaders fight to protect power plant

Legislator John Syracuse speaks as Senator George Maziarz shows his support.

SOMERSET—Fresh off the stunning approval of a cut-rate electricity deal between a Canadian government-run power monopoly and New York City by the New York State Public Service Commission, local leaders are calling for the deal to be blocked before local jobs are lost.

On hand at the Upstate New York Power Producers, Inc. power plant in Somerset to oppose the Canada-New York City power deal were local representatives from every level of government as well as the local Barker Central School District,  the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Niagara USA Chamber of Commerce.  The Upstate plant was formerly operated by AES Somerset, which declared bankruptcy late last year amid marketplace difficulties brought on, in part, by the importation of government-subsidized power from Canada, as well as ever more costly “greenhouse gas” restrictions.

The New York City deal, blessed by the PSC two weeks ago, would allow Hydro-Québec, a super-monopoly run by the government of the Canadian province of Quebec, to sell its Canadian taxpayer-subsidized surplus electricity to New York City—and would include construction of a 1,000-megawatt power line from Quebec to New York City designed to bypass Upstate New York power suppliers.

The transmission line, dubbed the “Champlain Hudson Power Express,” would run under water all the way from the Quebec border to the Consolidated Edison plant in New York City, passing under Lake Champlain and then along the bottom of the Hudson River—bypassing the aging transmission lines that carry the electricity produced by Upstate New York-based power companies.

Local leaders pulled no punches as they criticized the PSC and even some local elected officials for supporting the deal, which puts local jobs—and the largest taxpayer in Niagara County—in jeopardy.

The following is a sample of quotes from leaders participating in today’s rally:

Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane: “I have been sounding the alarm about the negative impacts of the proposed Champlain-Hudson Power Express for several years, using every means at my disposal to derail this ill-conceived project.  One of the critical elements that had been missing in our fight to protect jobs and unplug this extension cord from Canada was support from our federal officials. Many members of the Congressional delegation in our state issued letters of support for this ill-conceived project, even after I sent them two letters and substantial documentation about its negative impacts. Congressman Collins is the first federal official that I am aware of to stand up for Western New York on this important issue, and I commend him for joining the fight.”  Sen. Maziarz is chairman of the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee.        

Niagara County Legislator John Syracuse, R-Newfane: “The New York State Public Service Commission just decided it was fair to make small, privately-held power plants like the Somerset Power Generating Station compete against the entire Province of Quebec’s power grid. If this was an athletic competition, I’d say the fix was in.  But this isn’t an athletic competition.  This is life—this is people’s livelihoods on the line. This is the lives of every one of the men and women you see before you.  The men and women in hardhats.  The men and women in the front office.  The workers in suit coats—and the workers in Carhartt jackets.  Those men and women are fighting for their jobs.  They’re fighting for their families.  They’re fighting for their homes and their kids’ futures.”

Supervisor Dan Engert, R-Somerset:  “We’re becoming all too familiar with these ill-conceived, short sighted initiatives that import power from outside the borders of our State at the expense of Upstate New York. The CHPE project on its face is absolutely unnecessary since the unveiling of the Governor’s Energy Highway Blueprint which will upgrade the transmission system for all sources of power generation, not just the Western New York coal fleet but also for the renewable sources who are trying to come online and be competitive. Our focus as elected officials needs to be centered on jobs for our region. It was extremely discouraging to me when an official from the City of Niagara Falls seemed to promote the closing specific power generators, like this clean coal facility in Somerset, putting hundreds of hard working men and women out of work. I would urge him to consider ways to work collaboratively within our region by advocating for opportunities to include the coal facilities along with the good jobs they provide…which benefits our entire region and is critical for business growth and expansion.”


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