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Lazio calls for more production of power

TIMES STAFF WRITER
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Rick A. Lazio said one of his chief roles as governor, if elected, will be to foster development of more energy, calling it a "critical issue" for consumers and businesses statewide.


"It's going to be pretty hard to attract energy-consuming businesses into the state to create jobs or to convince heavy energy consumers to grow in this state, if they can't count on reliable, inexpensive power — whether hydropower, wind power, nuclear or natural gas," the former four-term congressman said during a Tuesday stop in Watertown. "We can't just do one or two. We've got to do all of them."


Mr. Lazio, one of three candidates vying for the GOP nomination, said reviving Article X legislation is "one of the ways that we have to revisit siting nuclear power."


The law, which governed siting of new power projects, expired in 2002 after the state Legislature was unable to agree on revisions that would have extended its life. New York's energy demands have continued to increase since then, although no new large power plants are being sited.


In the absence of a law, project developers have to obtain "all appropriate local and state permits and approvals, and undergo environmental review subject to the state Environmental Quality Review Act," according to the state Public Service Commission website.


Mr. Lazio said that process can take more than 15 years for a new power plant, which he considers "very cumbersome" for businesses.


"I am not for shortcutting environmental reviews but I am for getting decisions made in a manner that encourages investors to make the commitments that are necessary to protect our energy supplies," he said.


For wind farms, he said, local municipalities should continue to control the siting.


Mr. Lazio also said he'd encourage expansion of the electrical grid so that those producing renewable energy could sell their excess to the power companies.


"That's probably, long-term, one of the most important ways we can incentivize renewable power," he said.


He also vowed to ensure that preservation power generated at the St. Lawrence-FDR hydropower project in Massena would stay with local companies.


He objected to the state's sweep of revenue from the Niagara Power Project to offset general fund shortfalls, saying the money was better used to spur economic development or lower consumer and business rates in that region.


"Here's a perfect example of how the financial mismanagement in Albany leads to fewer jobs and higher costs, especially in the northern and western parts of the state," he said. "That's going to stop when I'm governor."


Mr. Lazio's energy plan is part of a broader rethinking of the way government can encourage business statewide. He also is in favor of phasing out the corporate state tax, eliminating capital gains taxes for businesses that start in New York and reducing the number of regulations.


He also supports putting a 2.5 percent cap on property tax hikes, limiting state spending to the inflation rate and consolidating state agencies, such as the Department of Health and Office of Mental Health, to cut administrative costs.


Mr. Lazio said he will need the public's help to successfully push some of these reforms through a Democrat-controlled Legislature.


"It's absolutely fundamental to get the changes we need in this state that the public comes out in large numbers and sends a message to the state Legislature that what we have been doing has been failing and they want to see this state turned around," he said. "They want to have people stand up and take the heat and do what's right, regardless of the political consequences. And I'm completely committed to that."


Mr. Lazio visited Watertown on Tuesday to talk to Jefferson County GOP Chairman Donald G.M. Coon III, one of about 15 county leaders who have yet to endorse a candidate, as well as state committee members.


Mr. Coon said the candidate pitched "a well thought out plan" Tuesday and is "going in the right direction in reversing the dysfunction in Albany and getting us to a place where we could prosper."


He reiterated that he is still not ready to endorse Mr. Lazio or either of his two opponents: Suffolk County Executive Steven A. Levy and Buffalo developer Carl P. Paladino.


Mr. Coon said one of his committee members will back Mr. Lazio at the state convention, while another is leaning toward Mr. Levy. There are two, including the chairman, who are publicly undecided.

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