2014 was another busy year for the Sacandaga Protection Committee; we continued to address several issues that seem to have carried over year after year, addressed a few new concerns, and continued our annual summertime and fall fundraisers. Click HERE for the January 2015 Update
As you know, the exclusive use of permit land remains our highest priority. In 2009 exclusive use of the permit land was threatened as the DEC considered rule changes that would eliminate exclusive use of the buffer strip around the lake by the permit holders. The SPC was formed as a result of this action and contributed to the widespread effort that resulted in the Governor's office stepping in to stop the rule changes from moving forward. The SPC continues to consider several possibilities for securing a permanent solution to guarantee exclusive use of the permit lands. One of these alternatives involves the re-classification of the permit lands as State Administrative. There have been several proposals recently by the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board and members of the Adirondack Associations of Towns and Villages (AATV) which address the classification of state administrative area, highways, utilities, and historic use areas in the Adirondacks as non-forest preserve land. The buffer zone (the permit lands) around GSL are currently considered "unclassified". The SPC is working with these groups to re-classify the buffer zone as state administrative lands. Classifying these lands as state administration would help eliminate the uncertainty regarding the future of the permit system, stabilize real estate values around the lake and protect the tax base that supports the local counties, towns, and school districts. This proposal would require a Constitutional Amendment and would need the support of local and state officials.
Legislative Effort to Abolish the HRBRRD
In May 2014 legislation was once again introduced that would abolish the Hudson River Black River Regulating District (HRBRRD). The Sacandaga Protection Committee opposes this legislation for several reasons, namely the uncertainty over what would become of the existing permit system. At this time, the SPC does not believe the legislation will be re-introduced during the upcoming term. Although the Assembly is in Democrat hands, the Senate is in Republican hands, and the bill has little chance of passing a Republican controlled Senate. The bill, as introduced last year, would have eliminated the beneficiary payments from the "Five Counties", and give control of Great Sacandaga Lake to the NY State Power Authority. The SPC has maintained a careful watch over this issue and will continue to be involved as necessary to support the lake community.
See the following pages for more information:
Niagara Mohawk Lawsuit
The SPC has been engaged in Niagara Mohawk's legal battle with the HRBRRD for several years now. In one of their many lawsuits against the HRBRRD, Niagara Mohawk claims that the permit system is illegal and should be abolished. In July 2014 the HRBRRD and SPC filed a motion for summary judgment that would effectively close this issue. Niagara Mohawk responded with a motion of their own and the issue now waits for the Judge's decision. If summary judgment is granted our involvement in this issue could be over. If it is not granted, the lawsuit will go to trial.
HRBRRD Permit Fee Increase
There have been newspaper articles recently reporting that auditors from the NY State Comptroller's office say the HRBRRD could generate more revenue by increasing the fees on the GSL permit holders, noting the fees have not increased since 2000. Right now there is no indication the Regulating District and the Board plan to take any action based on that recommendation. The SPC will continue to monitor this issue on behalf of the permit holders.
HRBRRD Seeks New Headwater Benefit Assessment
The Executive Director of HRBRRD, Mike Clark, has sent a letter dated December 22, 2014 to the Secretary of the Federal Energy Regulating Commission, Kimberly D. Bose, seeking a FERC Order requiring the commencement of Headwater Benefit Assessment payments from the hydropower owners to the Regulating District. As an alternative, the District is requesting the appointment of a settlement judge or access to the Commission's Dispute Resolution Service to implement state and federal court decisions impacting the assessments due to the District. FERC required in 2009 that the Regulating District and the hydropower owners try to reach an agreement. Several of the licensees reverted to litigation instead. These cases have either been deemed to be the purview of FERC (to make a decision), or the litigants have lost their cases in favor of the District. The next chapter of whether the hydropower owners have any responsibility for the payments lies with FERC. Any such payments should benefit NY State, the Regulating District, and the taxpayers in the "Five Counties".
HRBRRD Receives Favorable Ruling Regarding Refunds to Downstream Beneficiaries
The Appellate Division Third Department decided in favor of the HRBRRD regarding claims from New York State Electric & Gas, Northern Electric Power, and South Glens Falls Limited Partnership seeking a refund of state law assessments levied by HRBRRD from 2002-2008. Not only does this ruling eliminate claims by these companies, but it also prevents similar claims by other downstream beneficiaries who might want to file such claims. This is a major victory for the Regulating District, which would have had an additional financial burden to refund back assessments.