It was all so depressingly Western New York.
The folks who run the state Power Authority are finally coming off their high horses after, well, forever. They show up in town to hold a board meeting and invite movers and shakers to give them an earful.
Nearly a dozen take them up on the offer, but most showed up mostly to put their hand out.
Gimme, gimme, gimme.
Granted, some of them are pols and bureaucrats from cities and towns that got shorted when the authority was dispensing cash and cheap power four years ago in a successful effort to gain local support for its effort to get a new 50-year license to operate the Niagara Power Project.
Hey guys, I feel for you, but that ship has sailed.
Then there was the owner of the HSBC Tower who asked for a block of cheap power for downtown business interests. I sat there and thought to myself (1) cheap power has way more value to energy-intensive manufacturers than commercial operations such as banks and offices, which consume a lot less electricity, and (2) is there any subsidy program the boys downtown won't try and lay their hands on?
But playing your cards right doesn't involve simply saying gimme, gimme, gimme.
The authority under Kessel has opened preliminary discussions with Hydro-Quebec about buying loads of cheap hydropower, a good chunk of which could end up here.
Kessel also seems open about rethinking how cheap hydropower generated at the Niagara Power Project is used to promote economic growth here.
Finally, he's big on wind power, which means NYPA could be the catalyst to helping this region develop its wind resources. We're something like the 4th windiest urban area east of the Mississippi. It's good for more than just a nasty wind chill on a January night.
My advice, therefore, it to focus on the big picture. Kessel is.
A little cheap juice for this guy's office building or a little scratch for that pol's town government isn't going to get WNY out of its economic fix.
This region blew a major opportunity to get hydro right in the way it mishandled the negotiations involving the relicensing of the Power Project. As one environmental attorney described it: "Community against community, group against group. It was clear there were a lot of people out for their own piece of the pie."
I'm not suggesting those dynamics are at play this time around. Not yet, anyway.
But people, please, recognize there's an opportunity to get it right. Stop with the "gimme" stuff.
Hopefully Kessel is hearing more enlightened perspectives in private meetings he'd had with people around town. But it makes me wonder, given our track record as a community.
taggedNew York Power Authority