Updates from the Committee on Energy

Cahill Renews Call for Open Conference Committee on Power For Jobs Reform
Urges power authority to continue providing benefits to Power For Jobs customers
July 9, 2010

Albany – Assembly Energy Committee Chair Kevin Cahill (D-Ulster, Dutchess) renewed his call for the Senate and Governor to resume negotiations on Power For Jobs reform in an open, public joint conference committee. He also released a letter to New York Power Authority President Richard Kessel urging the Authority to continue providing benefits to employers served by the programs that expired on June 2nd.

“I see no benefit in subjecting hundreds of businesses and not-for-profits to increased energy costs. The Power Authority should continue providing assistance to Power For Jobs customers until the Senate acts on legislation passed by the Assembly,” said Assemblymember Cahill. “The Senate and the Governor need to come back to the table to work with the Assembly in a public forum to reach an agreement on a permanent program. At the same time, we must ensure we do so without forcing upstate households and farms to give up their low cost electricity.”

The Assembly, which called for the conference committee three weeks ago, took action to extend Power For Jobs until May 2011 (A.11523). The Senate left Albany without acting on the legislation. Assemblymember Cahill noted there is still time to agree on permanent reforms. While all parties want sustainable Power For Jobs reform, the Assembly is working to ensure it does not come at the expense of upstate residents. Negotiations on a new program have stalled due to the insistence on the part of the Senate and Executive that any reform seize the low cost hydroelectric power upstate New York residents have relied on for over half a century.

The Assembly reform legislation (A.11172) would give upstate households the option to relinquish the power voluntarily in return for energy conservation measures. In essence, residents could choose to contribute to the economy and create jobs by participating in energy efficiency programs that will permanently lower their utility costs. This approach has been endorsed by consumer groups like AARP, the Public Utility Law Project and Consumers Union.

“We should be focused on reforming Power For Jobs in ways that will create jobs without raising energy costs for households that are already struggling during these tough times,” said Assemblymember Cahill. “Instead of forcibly taking the benefit, we can give upstate New Yorkers the opportunity to save money on their electric bills while creating new economic opportunities in their communities.”

Continue for the text of Assemblymember Cahill’s letter to Richard Kessel:

July 9, 2010

Richard M. Kessel
President and Chief Executive Officer
New York Power Authority
123 Main Street
White Plains, New York 10601-3170

Dear Mr. Kessel:

I write regarding the suspension of the administration of the benefits provided under the Power for Jobs and Electric Cost Savings Benefit Programs. As you well know, the entities served by these programs are critically important to New York's economy, particularly at a time when we are seeking to stabilize employment. I urge you to use all the resources available to find ways to assist these organizations until a legislative solution materializes.

The Assembly has passed a number of different bills that would either temporarily extend these programs or transition them into a new and permanent program. Each of these bills would extend the benefits of these programs retroactively to June 2nd. While the Senate decides whether to act on the Assembly legislation, it is in the interest of the Power Authority and the participating businesses and not-for-profits that benefits be extended through the use of your administrative authority.

New York State, particularly upstate, simply cannot afford acceleration in job losses at this critical economic juncture. The Power Authority's economic development power programs have been instrumental in protecting and helping to create hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout the state, a sentiment you clearly share, as evidenced by your testimony before the Assembly Energy Committee on December 2, 2009. The following is an excerpt from your written testimony:

Investing in New York’s energy and economic development need is a priority for the Power Authority, and is integral to jump starting the State’s economy and supporting it in future revitalization and growth.

With some of the highest retail electric commodity and delivery rates in the country, New York, without these programs, would be at a competitive disadvantage for both attracting new businesses and for encouraging the expansion and retention of existing businesses, which translates into lost jobs statewide.

Participants have repeatedly warned that the absence of low cost power assistance provided by the Power for Jobs and Energy Cost Savings Benefit Programs would have serious ramifications for the health of New York's already struggling economy. The loss of these important benefits would not only be detrimental to the direct beneficiaries, but also to the communities that depend on their continued success. Their support for local businesses and contributions to the local tax base is truly incalculable.

You have an opportunity, just as your predecessors had when faced with the expiration of a legislative mandate, to extend a lifeline to these companies and communities by continuing the benefits administratively. Moving expeditiously to provide a bridge of stability for these employers will encourage their sustained investment in our economy. I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Kevin A. Cahill
Chair, Assembly Committee on Energy

cc: Hon. David A. Paterson, Governor