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Whither Roger Kelley?

I was expecting to wrap up this week's worth of Q&As with D. Patrick Curley, who, along with Elise Cusack, represents Western New York on the Power Authority's governing board. Curley was very guarded, however, and had little of interest to say. His one noteworthy comment: He believes the authority could be doing more to promote economic development, particularly in Western New York.

"To that end," he said, "I will propose that NYPA co-sponsor, with other appropriate state agencies, an economic development summit this fall in Buffalo. The conference will bring together recognized experts from the economic development milieu and will moderate topical panel discussions with representatives from Europe, Canada as well as our own federal, state and local governments."

Roger_kelley Let's turn to NYPA President Roger Kelley.

Because he's from Clarence, there were expectations in some quarters that Western New York might get more attention from the authority after his appointment a year ago. The timing appeared ripe.

In the months leading up to Kelley's appointment, assorted local officials had called for at least a partial relocation of authority headquarters from White Plains to Buffalo or Niagara Falls. And they wanted the authority to make better use of the Niagara Power Project to help the regional economy. None of that has transpired, however.

What has Kelley done for Western New York?

That was one of the questions I intended to ask him as part of a series of Q&As that I'm running this week on this blog. Kelley, I was told, is too busy. I made the invitation open-ended, saying we could talk whenever he had time. It's going on two weeks, and I haven't heard back.

Where does he stand?

Kelly gave a speech in September to the Independent Power Producers of New York, one that a member of his senior staff sent me last fall with the explanation that it outlined the authority's priorities under the new boss. Kelley made it clear in his speech that his priority was meeting the growing power demands of New York City. The only mention of Western New York involved a passing reference to a proposal to build a clean coal-fired power plant in the Town of Tonawanda, a plan that is now languishing. Some proponents grumble privately that the authority has failed to use its powers to help move the project along.

In April, the authority announced a deal that will lead to construction of a 500-megawatt plant -- that's pretty large -- in Queens to provide electricity to governmental customers in New York City. The plant will replace a facility that is being decommissioned.

Freedom_tower On a much smaller scale, the authority on Wednesday announced it has reached a deal to buy $10.6 million in fuel cells to help power four towers at the redeveloped World Trade Center in Manhattan. The state is picking up the tab for three of the fuel cells, the authority will pay for the fourth, and is scheduled to get reimbursed by the landlord over 20 years.

Nothing wrong with this. It's good the authority is promoting clean, renewable energy. And the redevelopment plan anticipates that buildings will be constructed to LEED standards. New York City could use all the green it can get.

It's noteworthy, however, there are no similar initiatives here, in the backyard of the people whose natural resources generate two-thirds of the profits the authority earns from its 18 power plants around the state. It's not like the authority hasn't invested in fuel cells before -- there have been 15 previous purchases. All but one is in or around New York City.

Among the operations they help power are a sewage treatment plant in Brooklyn, a hospital in the Bronx, a police precinct in Central Park and an aquarium at Coney Island.

A lot of people like to beat up on the authority for reasons that have more to do with the governor and State Legislature, who have demanded the authority use its revenues to help subsidize some 700 businesses across the state, few of them in Western New York. To some degree, that anger is misplaced.

But the contrast between the attention  NYPA pays to downstate and the lack of action in Western New York helps to perpetuate the perception among many here that authority officials think first and foremost about downstate.

Maybe some day Roger Kelley or Pat Curley will address those concerns. But not today, not in this blog, anyway.

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Hyrdopower | New York Power Authority
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