State board delays SolarCity funding approval

Posted at 5:48 PM, May 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-18 10:51:44-04

The Public Authorities Control Board delayed its decision to approve a $485 million grant for Buffalo's Riverbend until May 25th.

A state representative from the Division of Budget said it was delayed because of scheduled. But according to the Buffalo News, the board decided not to vote to release the next round of funding because, “red flags were raised in the legislature when the control board's internal agenda document included vague language about future, undetermined beneficiaries."

SolarCity is the largest residential solar energy installer in the U.S. It plans to use the Buffalo plant for manufacturing. The facility is expected to create 1,460 jobs.

Lawmakers should be asking questions according to Ken Girardin. He's a policy analyst for the Empire Center on Public Policy. “If you want to turn the economy around, the address the high taxes, and you address the regulatory climate. SolarCity isn't going to do any of those things,” he said.

The center is a nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank that analyzes how to make New York a better place to live. It doesn't oppose Solarcity. But Girardin said it does have concerns. “Having 500 manufacturing jobs in a $750 million dollar facility isn't going to change the reality for the existing businesses that are struggling to pay their taxes or their workers comp costs.”

Buffalo Mayor Bryon Brown remains optimistic the funding will be approved. “I'm not worried. We'll see how that meeting goes. But, right now, I'm not hearing that there will be any interruption in the SolarCity project moving forward.”

“I can't blame the Mayor for trying to hope for the best. But the reality is, the City could end up with something very different,” Girardin said.

Neither Solarcity nor project developer, LPCiminelli responded to our inquiries about how the funding approval delay could impact construction.