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The bill to create the North Country Power Authority has already passed the state senate. The region's delegation, republicans and democrats, support it. The final hurdle is the assembly's Ways and Means Committee.
Robert Best is chairman for the Alliance for Municipal power, AMP, which has spent a decade getting this far. He says a municipalized power grid in 24 villages and towns in St. Lawrence and Franklin Counties will bring down electric rates. "It'll be better for the economy. Profits will stay in this area. The system will be run for the benefit of the ratepayers, not for the benefit of stockholders. We think it will be good for the North Country."
Best is in Albany this week, lobbying for the bill's final passage. He says the biggest obstacle right now is that lawmakers are wary of authorities in general - semi-state agencies that have become best known for shadowy finances and political patronage. "This will be the first authority created under the new reform legislation for authorities, so I think they are trying to tighten up the finances of how authorities work."
Democratic assemblywoman Addie Russell is helping Best reach a compromise with assembly leaders. He says the revisions are mostly small ones, but he's trying to fend off one change that would have made it too hard for the authority to borrow money. He estimates it will cost AMP some $50 million to buy the power lines and poles from National Grid, but those talks can't begin until the new authority is created. Best says he's optimistic that will happen this week or next.