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Copelin Targets Covanta's PILOT Deal

By Craig Tretiak

Cheree Copelin wants Covanta to support non-profits with tax break savings.

The Reporter understands the nuances of the Covanta Deal. Niagara Falls gives New York City all our hydro power and we get all their garbage in return.

With Covanta Energy’s Niagara Falls incinerator expected to receive tax breaks brokered by the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency, County Legislator Cheree Copelin says they should be required to make payments to non-profit groups in Niagara Falls.

That’s the thrust of a letter she sent last week to IDA attorney Mark Gabriele.

Copelin’s letter comes in the wake of questions about Yahoo’s Lockport-based operation being required to send $3.5 million to a Buffalo-based non-profit in exchange for its tax incentive package.  That move was criticized by the legislature’s majority leader, Rick Updegrove of Lockport, who objected to the funds being sent to Buffalo when most of the tax breaks were provided by the Town of Lockport and Niagara County.

The IDA approved Covanta’s application for assistance, the company’s formal request for tax breaks, in January.  Under Covanta’s request, the company is seeking $8 million in tax breaks over 15 years, and plans to make plant upgrades and grow its payroll to 109 jobs. The proposal has had its share of critics, mostly environmentalists concerned about the waste being incinerated at the Covanta site.

Calling her proposal “a ‘win’ for everyone involved,” Copelin urged Gabriele to recommend insertion of direct payments to Niagara Falls non-profits in the final language of a deal to be signed by Covanta Energy and the IDA.

“A community-host agreement with Covanta Niagara would provide not-for-profits in the Niagara Region a much needed boost,” Copelin wrote.  “Many of these organizations that provided needed services in our community are struggling in the current economy.”

Copelin also cited Modern Disposal’s $1 million a year in payments to nearby non-profits.

“We want companies to invest in our area.  We want jobs.  So we provide great tax-incentive packages to make this an inviting business climate,” Copelin said by telephone Friday.  “That doesn’t mean that these businesses don’t have an obligation to help improve the communities that have been good to them. It’s a two-way street.”


Copelin went on to note that businesses have self-interest on the line as well.


“Yahoo’s employees live here.  Modern’s employees live here [and], so do Covanta’s. They should want their employees to enjoy a good quality of life,” Copelin explained. “But mostly, I think they owe a community that just gave them the tools to grow their business something in return. Investing in our non-profits is a great way for Covanta to show they are a responsible neighbor and for us to gain something in return for those IDA tax breaks.”

 “Any time a business invests in our community, we’re better for it,” she said. “When they invest in our community’s future, that’s even more true.”




Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

May 07, 2013