Task Force: Power Authority "Abruptly Halted" Talks

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A task force negotiating with the state Power Authority in St. Lawrence County claimed Thursday the Power Authority abruptly cut off talks.

However, a spokeswoman for the Power Authority told 7 News Thursday night that negotiations are continuing.

Members of the St. Lawrence Local Government Task Force have been negotiating with the Power Authority to review its 2002 relicensing agreement.

The task force said NYPA (the Power Authority) "abruptly halted negotiations" Monday and unilaterally declared an end to the 10-year review of the deal.

"After flying to Massena on NYPA's private plane and making a take-it-or-leave-it final offer to the Task Force negotiating team, NYPA officials said the review was over and no further negotiations would take place," the task force said in a news release Thursday.

The task force unanimously rejected the NYPA proposal Wednesday.

In a statement Thursday night, the Power Authority said "We look forward to continuing our conversations with local officials," and when asked by 7 News whether that means talks will continue, spokeswoman Connie Cullen said it did.

The task force said the final offer included no new monetary compensation for the host communities and was a mixture of recently completed items such as the Northern New York Power Proceeds Act, St. Regis Mohawk Land Claims, and an offer for an economic development study that has been a longstanding request of the St. Lawrence River Redevelopment Agency.

According to the task force, "NYPA consistently refused to increase its support for the St. Lawrence County host communities despite the fact that each year the power giant gives western NY host communities a monies and benefits nearly seven times greater than the financial support it affords St. Lawrence. There is clearly a double standard in how NYPA treats the two host communities."

To the contrary, the Power Authority claimed Thursday night that " We have proposed significant additional benefits beyond the millions of dollars in annual NYPA funding, land transfers, low-cost power allotment and recreational and environmental enhancements that St. Lawrence County communities are benefiting from under the agreement.

"We have covered all of the items that are required as part of the review process," the Power Authority said in its statement.

"The challenge in our latest negotiations is that it has become clear the LGTF (Local Government Task Force) is solely focused on receiving additional monies on top of the $2 million per year for the next 40 years that they already receive from NYPA as part of the relicensing settlement.

"The additional monies they have proposed would be used for their local government general funds, and NYPA cannot comply with this request because it is outside our legal authority," the Power Authority said in its statement.

Louisville Town Supervisor Larry R. Legault said, "I was present in 2002 when the Authority agreed to review the settlement agreement every 10 years. In the agreement the Authority explicitly agreed to address any inequities that might result if the benefits afforded St. Lawrence County did not compare with the local benefits provided by other NYPA projects. I expected better from NYPA; all we heard were excuses."

Legault refers to a deal struck by the Power Authority in western New York to relicense its power project there - that deal was much more lucrative ($974 million) than the deal St. Lawrence County got in 2002, ($115 million) which is why the task force is attempting to get more frrom the Power Authority.

(The vspokeswoman for the Power Authority disputes the validity of comparing $115 million to $974 million. Connie Cullen tells 7 News the $115 million is only what was paid to governments in St. Lawrence County, while the $974 million reflects both payments to governments in western New York and other benefits as well.)

Monday, September 15, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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