State Legislators Propose to Abolish the HRBRRD - Summary June 22, 2010

The Sacandaga Protection Committee would like to thank all of the people that contacted their state senators, assemblymen and assemblywomen to express their position against the Breslin bill.  The bill, if passed, would have eliminated the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District and placed the operation under the New York State Power Authority.

Without all of you, as well as the support of many local politicians, the Sacandaga Protection Committee’s attorneys’ and lobbyists’ efforts to stop the legislation might not have been successful.

The legislation was introduced by two Albany area legislators in retaliation to the HRBRRD’s recent assessment of the costs of the reservoir operations to five downstream counties determined to be flood control beneficiaries.

The SPC’s attorneys, Hodgson-Russ, LLP, prepared a detailed position paper on the effects of such legislation and the SPC’s government affairs consulting group in Albany, Bolton-St. Johns, lobbied legislators to hold up the bill until a comprehensive solution to the problems of the HRBRRD could be determined.

The SPC asserted that the proposed legislation has many implications and unintended consequences that were not addressed.  For instance, would the Great Sacandaga Lake property that is owned by New York State still be taxable or would it be brought within the Power Authority’s property tax exemption, and, if so, who would make up the difference to the schools and municipalities.

The SPC offered other solutions such as allowing the HRBRRD bonding authority until the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission completes the beneficiaries study ordered by the federal court that sided with the power producers in eliminating their requirement to pay any of the property taxes.

 

Several articles were published on this issue:

Dissolving river-control district stuck in closing legislative session, June 16, 2010

Sacandaga group opposes abolishing district, Leader-Herald June 16, 2010

Legislators suggest abolishing water regulating district, Post Star June 16, 2010

Legislators aim to get rid of river, Daily Gazette June 11, 2010

Counties seek to eliminate regulating district, The Saratogian June 11, 2010

Bill calls for end of regulating district, The Leader-Herald June 11, 2010

State bill: Flooding district must go, Times Union June 11, 2010

 


Previous post of June 18, 2010

The proposed legislation that would abolish the HRBRRD appears to be stalled as the legislative session comes to an end.  It appears that the New York Power Authority may not be willing to to take the HRBRRD over and legislators acknowledged concerns regarding how the permit system would be administered.  The Sagandaga Protection Committee opposes this legislation.

 

Read an editorial from the Leader Herald: Proposed bill isn't answer, June 17, 2010


Previous post of June 11, 2010

Recently two Albany area legislators introduced legislation that would abolish the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District (HRBRRD) and replace it with the New York State Power Authority (NYPA).  This legislation is in retaliation to the HRBRRD recent assessment of the costs of reservoir operations to the 5 downstream counties determined to be flood control beneficiaries.

The Sacandaga Protection Committee opposes the proposed Senate and Assembly bills.

First, this bill would saddle the NYPA, whose expertise is power generation, with unprecedented and unrelated powers, including flood control and operation of a 70-year old permit system. Coupled with the District’s other non-power related functions, including maintaining the 125-mile lakeshore, a transfer of functions to NYPA would detract from the authority’s fundamental purpose.

Second, this bill does not consider the taxable status of the District’s property after transfer to NYPA.  NYPA already owns lands throughout New York State that are used for reservoir purposes which are not subject to taxation.  If the Great Sacandaga Lake property is still taxable, would the NYPA be required to pay taxes to various entities where they own property?  Even more frightening, if the HRBRRD’s property is brought within NYPA’s tax exemption, who will make up the difference?  Respectfully, this bill leaves fundamental questions unresolved.

This is a classic example of a knee jerk reaction and overkill.  This proposed legislation is not well thought out, and may have implications well beyond the Great Sacandaga Lake, including financial implications for NYPA and the State of New York. It does not address the main issues facing the HRBRRD; it just moves them to another public benefit corporation.

The problems at the HRBRRD are well documented.  While there may be questions concerning some of their operating expense, there is no question that the $2,600,000 of property taxes they pay annually to the local schools and towns are a large percentage of their expenses. It is also not in question that despite an agreement signed by the power producers to pay these taxes, the power producers sued the HRBRRD in federal court over these charges.  The federal court sided with the power producers, leaving the district with a large operating deficit.

The SPC believes that there are better solutions than the abolishment of the HRBRRD.  Pass legislation allowing the HRBRRD bonding authority until the Federal Energy Regulating Commission completes the beneficiaries study ordered by the federal court.  This approach will get our schools and towns the tax dollars they desperately need while allowing all stake holders the opportunity to work towards a comprehensive solution to the operations of the HRBRRD.

A vote on this issue may occur as early as Tuesday, June 15, we encourage you to contact your local Assemblyman and Senator as soon as possible to voice opposition to this legislation.

The Assembly bill number is: A11401

The Senate bill number is: S8118

 

Read the formal SPC Memorandum in Opposition to the Proposed Legislation

 

The revenue shortfall, experienced by the HRBRRD, is the result of a November 2008 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals which prevents the HRBRRD from taxing downstream hydropower beneficiaries for operating costs. The five counties billed for flood control have recently filed a lawsuit against the HRBRRD opposing the assessment.