By Frank Parlato Jr.
I’d like to propose we change the name of our County from Niagara to Stupid.
Where else could you find a place that produces billions of dollars worth of a commodity which everybody uses, a commodity that once made them rich – who signed their rights away – for 50 years -- exported it -- at cheap prices -- then paid exorbitantly for the same commodity; descending - during this time - from prosperous to dead broke; who elect leaders who, when their first, bankrupting, 50 year deal is up, stand ready to sign another 50 year deal; and, finally, the embellishment: the dunce cap on the pin-head of a fool: an apathetic, uninformed public?
They don’t know, for instance, that the New York Power Authority (NYPA), a quasi- governmental, Albany-controlled, “public benefit” corporation, now in the final months of a 50 year license to control the hydro- electric energy of the Niagara, sells none of it to local residents. Niagara- power goes to New York City and eight other states.
They don’t know that, as their inexpensive local power crosses state lines to enrich states such as Tennessee and New Jersey, only two places in the USA pay more for electricity than the Niagara resident: New Hampshire and Hawaii. According to Electric Power Monthly, 25% of the nation pays less than half.
A bankrupt people who have the greatest hydro –electric power in the world – who neither get use of their locally- produced power, nor get inexpensive electricity -- is one stupendous irony.
Harken back, then, my friends, to its genesis, to 1957, when Robert Moses told the people here how NYPA, having exclusive control of Niagara’s hydro-power, would insure continued prosperity in this region. A skillful liar, Moses, deceiving an innocent, trusting, prosperous people into the loss of their asset, left a legacy of riches to ruin, a saga, spanning three generations, of genuine pathos.
It might be a story of innocent ruin, a people deceived by those elected to represent them, but it might also be bizarrely comedic, with a well defined stooge: the people of Niagara.
Consider: NYPA’s license expires next year; we could gain control of our power. Like we did when we were rich - when we were the world leader in power production, when they called Niagara Falls the “Power City” – when we had inexpensive, abundant electrical power – and businesses (and jobs) came rushing here.
But, curiously, a shadowy group, called the Niagara Power Coalition – comprised of representatives of what some are pleased to call the Stupid Seven (S-7): Niagara Falls, Niagara County, the towns of Niagara and Lewiston, and the Niagara –Wheatfield, Lewiston -Porter, and Niagara Falls School Districts, are willing to gift NYPA another 50 year license – until 2057-- in return for a proportional pittance: $233 million, paid over 50 years, and a tiny allocation of low-cost Niagara power- which some politicians of S-7 will control.
S-7 plans to relinquish, on behalf of current and future residents of this county - a billion dollar a year asset (in today’s dollars), in return for a seven way split of five million annually, not factored for inflation. It will be five million, split seven ways 50 years from now.
Apparently, NYPA executives know that ignorance (in Niagara) is bliss (for NYPA). They know they don’t have to sell Niagara power to Niagara. The obtuse ones here think they get their power from NYPA because NYPA power plants are here – offering free tours of the power vista and free parking for waterfowl observation.
Niagara residents, however, get their power from burning coal and other inefficient methods, purchased at high mark-up from a company owned by investors from England called National Grid.
Ironic, isn’t it? As we buy expensive electricity from the Brits, NYPA takes our hydro-power and sells it elsewhere at low rates. Lamentably, the most ubiquitous of waterfowl, observed, quietly, by NYPA executives, are colorful gooses, living in homes throughout Niagara, paying high electric bills, unaware they are in a world- leading, electricity-producing region and getting none of it.
Still, even the denizens here ought to comprehend: NYPA is controlled by Albany and swells rich with “patronage” jobs. Instead of providing low- cost electricity for this region – which would create thousands of good-paying local jobs – the profits from our hydro-power pays for thousands of high-paying, “administrative” and “consultant” jobs, most of which are in White Plains – a suburb of NYC, and Albany.
Although S-7 leaders would disagree, we don’t have to re-license NYPA. They prefer not to talk about whether or not to re-license, or how to get low rates for the people. Their only question is “can we get one or two million for our pet projects?”
Compared to the 50- year value of Niagara power, two million is two cents.
Ultimately, the stupefying truth is this: There is no inexpensive electrical power for the people who live where electricity is generated; the people don’t use their locally-produced power, they don’t know it, and, when they learn about it, don’t complain.
They don’t call us stupid for nothing.