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Higgins warns of electricity rate spikes following Huntley plant closure

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Thu, May 5th 2016 03:05 pm

Congressman calls on New York Power Authority to meet federal obligation to address problem

Congressman Brian Higgins is sounding the alarm on significant local electricity rate spikes following the shutdown of the Huntley Station power plant in Tonawanda, and calling for swift action to protect consumers.

Research conducted by Higgins' office found that, since the closing of the Huntley power plant on Feb. 29, the wholesale price of electricity in Western New York has become unstable, resulting in average wholesale rate increases between 41.9 percent and 90.9 percent. If left unaddressed, Higgins said he worries consumers will be paying the price.

"Early trends show a startling increase in electricity rates, and this comes before we reach a traditionally higher-demand summer season," Higgins said. "We have been following this closely and have serious concerns about the long-term impact these market increases could have on Western New York residential and business consumers if left unaddressed. NYPA has the capacity to fix this problem, and must fix this problem, as their federal mandates demand."

NYPA estimates show there is enough power production capacity at Niagara Falls to meet the supply crunch caused by the Huntley closure, but that transmission constraints between the Niagara Power Project and Buffalo prevent this. These constraints amount to as much as 12 percent of the Niagara Power Project's total output.

The Niagara Power Project was authorized by Congress through the 1957 Niagara Redevelopment Act and its original 1958 license from the Federal Power Commission; this authorization was renewed by its subsequent 2007 license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Under this law and their license, NYPA is mandated not only to produce the share of Niagara hydropower allocated to the U.S. by international treaties, but to "make such power available at the lowest rates reasonably possible to encourage the widest possible use."

In a letter to NYPA, Higgins pointed out the rate increases and called on NYPA to proactively enhance transmission and/or production to help stabilize rates and protect consumers from steep increases.

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