Amazon secures low-cost power allocation for Town of Niagara facility

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Mar. 22—New York Power Authority has awarded a nearly 10.7-megwatt allocation of low-cost Niagara Power Project hydropower to Niagara County's planned Amazon facility.

Gov. Kathy Hochul's office on Wednesday announced the award alongside NYPA's grants of "ReCharge NY" low-cost power to 22 firms across the state, including 140 megawatts for Onondaga County-based Micron, a memory chip manufacturer, and 250 killowatts for the Village of Greene, in Chenango County, in support of an organic yogurt production facility.

Amazon has proposed raising a $550 million distribution center in the Town of Niagara, on 216 acres next to Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, which has proved controversial among Niagara residents and watchdog groups that track Amazon's business dealings. The project has the support of the Town of Niagara and the Niagara County Planning Board.

The e-commerce giant secured a $123 million Payment In Lieu Of Taxes agreement from the Niagara County Industrial Development agency this past summer, when it projected construction of the fulfillment center would take 18 to 24 months and the facility would employ 1,000 people, 950 of them as warehouse workers.

It's unclear when construction work will start. In response to WIVB-TV's Tuesday request for an update on the project, Amazon issued a statement that said, in part, the status of the project remains the same since the company got the necessary approvals this past summer but additional steps remain.

Watchdog groups opposed to incentives for Amazon included Good Jobs First, Reinvent Albany, and the American Economic Liberties Project. Their criticism, boiled down: Niagara County should not have granted Amazon one of the largest tax breaks it has ever received while the company barely pays its employees a living wage, $15 per hour.

NYPA board chairman John R. Koelmel, a Buffalo resident, apparently sees things differently.

"The legacy of Niagara hydropower is deeply intertwined with economic growth and vitality of Western New York. Amazon's investment in Niagara Falls will build on that legacy, creating more than 1,000 jobs and supercharging the regional economy with a more than half a billion-dollar investment," he said.

Public Power NY Coalition, a statewide movement of community and advocacy organizations, rapped NYPA's choice in a statement released Wednesday night.

"Not only is Governor Hochul cozying up with Billionaire Bloomberg, she is now hijacking New York's existing public renewable energy to provide discounts to Amazon, the country's most notorious union buster. At a time when utility rates have skyrocketed and almost 30% of New Yorkers were unable to pay at least part of their energy bill in the past 12 months, it is laughable that she would direct utility discounts to Amazon in the name of 'economic development' instead of directing them to struggling New Yorkers. ...

"New York Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt did not create the New York Power Authority to provide discounts to the world's richest men. He created it to give back to the people the power that is theirs. We will continue to fight to pass the full Build Public Renewables Act, take our power back today, and ensure New York leads the way forward to a future we'll be proud to pass on to generations to come."