More than 850 St. Lawrence County businesses, farms to lose electricity subsidy under new NYPA plan
By JIMMY LAWTON
More than 850 businesses and farms in St. Lawrence County will soon lose a discount power benefit after stakeholders ratified a deal aimed at spurring economic development.
About 655 businesses and roughly 200 farms had been receiving discounted power from NYPA as part of an agreement made by the local government task force and the power authority during the relicensing review.The program is known as the Temporary North Country Power Discount Program and has subsidized power for farms and businesses across Franklin, Jefferson and St. Lawrence County to the tune of $20 million in two years.
A NYPA spokesman estimated that about 75 percent of farms and businesses enrolled in the program were saving between $50 and $300 per month. However, the 10 biggest recipients were receiving a savings a combined $129,800 per month.
The plan being pushed by NYPA will repurpose $10 million from the Temporary North Country Power Discount Program to support a marketing effort ‘to bring new preservation power customers to the region.”
St. Lawrence County was the fifth and final signatory to approve the plan, which the host communities have now approved 5-3.
NYPA spokesman Steven Gosset said shift in funding aims to find companies interested in 238 MW of preservation power that is legally obligated to be contracted to businesses in the tri-county area. Currently that power is being sold on the open market with all of the profits going to NYPA, meaning the North Country is not benefitting from the power purposely set aside to bring businesses to the area.
“The Local Government Task Force, with NYPA's support, seeks to bolster the resources available to promote long-term economic growth in St. Lawrence County. Such action complements the extensive economic development plan for the county that NYPA released earlier this year as well as NYPA's continuing commitment to use our low-cost hydropower to grow jobs and businesses in the North Country. At the same time, NYPA recognizes the struggles many of agricultural customers face and will work closely with them to access other state energy efficiency programs to help them reduce their costs far beyond when the temporary discount program was to end in 2018,” Gosset said in a prepared statement.
Massena Town Supervisor Joe Gray says he sees the shift as positive for St. Lawrence County, as the money will be used to find a potential job creator. Gray said that despite 855 businesses and farms losing the discount power, he believes searching for organizations interested in receiving the preservation power will be more beneficial.
He said there is no guarantee of success, but the North Country needs to take a risk and try something different.
“We are trying to look at the bigger picture,” he said. “I think this is a good plan.”
The plan has also been met with some resistance. Some St. Lawrence County legislators weren’t keen on taking away discounted power promised to St. Lawrence County businesses and farms. They are also weary of spending the $10 million on marketing, fearing that the money will largely go to downstate consultants that will be unsuccessful in marketing the preservation power.