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October 9, 2021 - 10:12am

County judge rejects Tonawanda Seneca Nation's suit against GCEDC in connection to Plug Power siting

posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, GCEDC, Tonawanda Seneca Nation, Plug Power, wny stamp.

A lawsuit filed by the Tonawanda Seneca Nation challenging the Genesee County Economic Development Center’s State Environmental Quality Review determination in connection with the Plug Power, Inc., project has been dismissed by Genesee County Acting Supreme Court Justice Charles Zambito.

The nation contended that the liquid hydrogen facility, which is in line to become operational sometime next year at the Western New York Science, Technology and Advanced Manufacturing Park in the Town of Alabama, would infringe upon its “Big Woods” sacred ground that is situated near the western end of STAMP.

As plaintiff in the legal action, the nation also sought to prove the GCEDC did not provide notification prior to the completion of the environmental review process.

Zambito, in his decision released on Sept. 28, ruled that the Seneca Nation failed to add Plug Power, Inc., as a defendant prior to the statute of limitations.

GCEDC reported its environmental impact determination on Feb. 4, giving the nation four months to amend its original suit of June 4 that listed only the GCEDC two top officers and board chair and vice chair as defendants.

The nation eventually added Plug Power, Inc., as a defendant on June 18 – two weeks after the deadline. Furthermore, it did so without “leave of the Court,” Zambito wrote, causing a delay in the amended petition’s filing until July 26.

In his analysis, Zambito wrote that “the proposed amended petition is untimely as it relates to Plug Power, Inc. (deemed a “necessary party”) and the individual GCEDC respondents. The motion to amend is denied accordingly and the amended petition is dismissed.”

He also dismissed the original petition for failure to include Plug Power, Inc., ruling that while the original petition was filed in a timely fashion, “the failure to join such a necessary party can result in the dismissal of the action.”

According to the GCEDC, Plug Power, Inc., plans to build the $232.7 million green energy technology facility at a 29.884-acre site at STAMP, with a proposed initial operation creating 68 new jobs at an average salary of approximately $70,000.

The Latham-based company also will invest $55 million to help build a 345/115KV electric substation in partnership with the New York Power Authority and National Grid. The substation will support future expansion and growth opportunities at STAMP’s 1,250-acre mega-site.

The GCEDC board of directors have approved the following incentives to Plug Power, Inc.:

  • Approved Property Tax Payments (Payment in Lieu of Taxes): $2.3 million per year, $46 million over 20 years.
  • Sales Tax Exemptions: $1.1 million.
  • Estimated Savings: $117.7 million property tax savings over 20 years if assessed at cost of construction ($232.7 million).
  • Anticipated assessment is much more likely to be $60-90 million. Payments of $2.3 million per year equate to a zero percent abatement on a $65 million assessment.

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