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By James Hufnagel

A high-level source has confirmed that Paul Drof, executive director of the Niagara Falls Water Board, was summoned to Albany three weeks ago by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to finalize plans for the importation of millions of gallons of toxic "frack" water into the city of Niagara Falls for treatment and discharge into the Niagara River.

It was also revealed that the Cuomo administration and the water board are jointly considering implementation of a massive new transportation scheme to facilitate this latest effort to capitalize on our area's willingness to shoulder the toxic waste storage and disposal burden for the entire state.

If plans move forward, the Buffalo Avenue facility will be receiving scores, possibly hundreds, of tanker trucks on a daily basis laden with the frack water, which is awaiting an official determination by the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) as to whether it should be classified as "hazardous waste" due to the fact it contains radioactivity and known carcinogens. Cuomo is said to be heavily advocating for railcar transport as well.

That Cuomo harbors a deep-seated contempt for Western New York, and Niagara County in particular, is becoming more painfully evident with each passing day.

Some say it's the result of a long-standing grudge springing from the role Upstate New York played in the shocking and abrupt 1994 defeat of his father at the hands of one-time Peekskill mayor George Pataki. Others speculate that the Carl Paladino candidacy solidified our position in the governor's mind as a backwater redneck paradise.

Then again, there are reasons to believe he doesn't think about us very much at all.

Last week at a press conference at Roswell Park, Cuomo chided the usual assemblage of pols, business leaders and assorted bigshots to "overcome internal rivalries," chastising them for their "provincialism," before appointing 28 of them to a new "regional economic development council." Only four of the 28 will represent, in one form or another, Niagara County interests.

"There is no economic future just for Jamestown, discrete from Buffalo, discrete from Erie," Cuomo lectured in his comically nasal Queens accent. "It's not going to work that way. I know there are lines on a map, but the lines mean nothing when it comes to economic reality. And you have to get out of that thinking, and you have to get past that box."

Erie, of course, is a small city in northwestern Pennsylvania, but it, like us, might as well be located on the dark side of the moon for all Cuomo knows or cares.

"We need to do a better job of transmission. We need to get the power from Upstate New York, from Western New York, low-cost power, to the metropolitan area of New York City," was the warning shot Cuomo fired across our bow during the gubernatorial debate last fall.

As it turned out, April 15 found the governor at a North Tonawanda metal fabrication plant, reluctantly signing "Recharge New York" legislation. A warmed-over "Power for Jobs," the new program is intended to return to us a little bit more of the Niagara Power Project hydropower that's now sold out-of-state.

"I said, you pass this bill and we'll be in North Tonawanda," Cuomo told state Sen. George Maziarz, who shepherded the bill through the state Legislature.

In other words, Cuomo journeyed to Western New York to sign a bill enabling Western New York to better utilize a local resource for the benefit of its economy -- because he lost a bet.

The city of Buffalo received a $300 million NYPA windfall in the waning days of the Paterson administration. It's been nearly two years since a $100 million aid package was promised to Niagara County. Cuomo gave us an answer on that with the firing of NYPA CEO Rich Kessel last week.

The latest manifestation of Cuomo's distaste for Western New York came in the form of, and I couldn't make this up if I tried, a "Preliminary Revised Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement."

The document, representing the latest Cuomo proposal for regulating the natural gas industry's use of "hydrofracturing" -- a highly controversial drilling technique on which little scientific, economic or sociological study has been completed -- entirely prohibits the process in the New York City and Syracuse watersheds, but gives the green light to the industry to frack the hell out of Western New York.

An internal state government report recently leaked to the Ithaca Journal estimated the huge projected transportation infrastructure costs associated with fracking. Intended only for the eyes of the state DEC, the Department of Transportation and Cuomo's executive staff, it stated bluntly, "The potential transportation impacts are ominous ... the Marcellus region will see a peak year increase of of up to 1.5 million heavy truck trips ... it will be necessary to reconstruct hundreds of miles of roads and scores of bridges and undertake safety and operational improvements in many areas. The annual costs to undertake these transportation projects are estimated to range ... from $121 million to $222 million for local roads."

Not to worry, though, the Cuomo administration and the water board will surely pay those costs, not us taxpayers. Clearly, the water board should, at the very least, conduct a full-scale economic impact study, accompanied by public hearings, before committing to Cuomo's dangerous plan for the future of our Niagara County families and communities.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Aug. 2, 2011