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Government Affairs Albany Update

May 14, 2004

New York ISO Releases State of the Industry Report

The New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) yesterday released its fourth annual report on New York's energy situation. The report, Power Trends: New York's Success & Unfinished Business, examined industry conditions related to generation, transmission, regional planning, environmental stewardship and the markets.

The report stresses that although much progress has been made, more work is needed to address the pressing issues that continue to impact the electric industry in New York, regionally and nationwide.

The report states that more than 3,000MW of in-state generation has been installed since 2001.

The report contains the following four recommendations:

  1. Adopt national mandatory reliability standards. The Blackout of August 2003 highlighted problems that can occur when just one area of an interconnected electric system malfunctions because of a failure to follow reliability standards. Congress must take steps to make compliance mandatory, and grant regulators the authority to assess penalties for noncompliance.
  2. Of the many reports issued since the Blackout, none indicated New York operators could have taken preventative steps. However, the NYISO continues to review its own stringent standards while it heeds the 46 recommendations outlined in the most comprehensive study - the final report of the U.S.-Canada Power System Outage Task Force. NYISO's unfinished business includes the continued evaluation and enhancement of New York's grid.
  3. Re-enact New York's Article X Siting Law. This law, which expired on December 31, 2002, provided a streamlined process to review, approve and locate new generation facilities. While demand has flattened upstate, New York City and Long Island remain areas where demand is outpacing the construction of new supply.
  4. The NYISO must continue to aggressively achieve its two primary functions - operate fair and equitable electric markets and ensure a safe and reliable electric system for New Yorkers - by working to institute a Comprehensive Planning Process. By the end of 2004, the NYISO will have in place a process to identify and resolve the major energy issues affecting New York today and in the future, such as resource and transmission adequacy, and congestion costs.

Brownfield Implementation Efforts

The Department of Environmental Conservation has issued two major documents for public comment related to implementation of the state's new brownfield program. These include:

Brownfield Cleanup Program Guidance
This document provides technical guidance to implementation of all major aspects of the brownfield program, including: application and administrative processes; citizen participation requirements; site investigation requirements; remedy and remedy selection criteria.

You can also contact Robert W. Schick at DEC at: (518)402-9662. The last day for receipt of comments will be July 12, 2004.

Development of Soil Cleanup Objectives
The Brownfield Act directs the DEC to adopt use-based soil cleanup standards for residential, commercial and industrial projects, and sets forth criteria for use in developing such standards. By statute, the DEC is to propose these standards by October 2004. In order to obtain public input on this standards development process, the DEC has issued briefs or "information sheets" on eleven separate issues that will be considered, ranging from establishing definitions for different categories of land use, to technical exposure and epidemiological issues.

The DEC has not yet established any timetable for receipt of comments on these issue sheets. However, it will be discussed at public meetings scheduled for May 19 in Albany and June 8 in New York City.

The Business Council's Environment Committee will be submitting comments on this document. If you are interested in participating in these review and comment efforts, please contact us at your earliest convenience.

Regents' Graduation Requirements Resolution

The Business Council's Board of Directors passed a resolution in support of the Regents' graduation requirements at their May 10, 2004 board meeting.

State Health Department Releases Reports on Cardiac Surgery

New York State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., released two comprehensive state reports that show the quality of care received by children and adults in need of cardiac surgery.

The reports provide consumers with risk-adjusted data and surgical outcomes on adult cardiac valve surgery, and, separately, pediatric congenital cardiac surgery statewide. The reports show that 19 of 34 hospitals performing adult cardiac artery bypass surgery (CABG) reported risk-adjusted mortality rates below the statewide average of 2.32 percent. In addition, eight of 16 hospitals performing pediatric congenital cardiac surgery reported risk-adjusted mortality rates below the statewide average of 5.35 percent.

The Adult Cardiac Surgery Report for 1998-2000 provides information on risk factors and outcomes for isolated cardiac artery bypass surgery, valve surgery and the two procedures performed in combination. In 2000, New York's hospitals performed 18,121 adult cardiac artery bypass surgeries, reporting a mortality rate of 2.32 percent - representing one of the lowest rates ever reported. This 2000 figure is an improvement over the 3.52 percent mortality rate recorded in 1989, when the Department first began reporting CABG surgical outcomes.

The State Health Department report provides risk-adjusted mortality rates for each of the 34 hospitals approved to provide coronary artery bypass surgery in New York State.

The Adult Cardiac Surgery Report was expanded to include Valve-only and Valve/CABG procedures for 1998-2000. The statewide average mortality rate for the 18,125 combined Valve-only and Valve/CABG procedures performed in New York State was 7.13 percent.

The Adult Cardiac Surgery Report for 1998-2000 also presents information on eight different categories of valve procedures performed in New York State. For each hospital, the data includes the different types of valve procedures performed based on hospital reported discharge data and the number of in-hospital patient deaths for each of those procedures.

The Pediatric Congenital Cardiac Surgery Report for 1997-1999 summarizes risk factors and outcomes for pediatric patients undergoing surgery to correct congenital heart defects. The unprecedented report represents the first such published analysis of its kind in the nation. The report was developed from information reported by hospitals to the New York State Pediatric Cardiac Surgery Reporting System.

Between 1997 and 1999 there were 4,710 congenital cardiac surgeries performed in New York State on patients under the age of 18. In 1999, the statewide mortality rate for patients undergoing these surgeries in New York's 16 hospitals was 5.35 percent.

The pediatric cardiac data provides risk-adjusted mortality rates for each of the 16 hospitals providing pediatric congenital cardiac surgery in New York State by collecting data on approximately 55 different diagnoses, all of which have a certain degree of risk associated with them. Diagnosis-specific data and case volume is highlighted in the report.

Activity on Labor and Human Resource Bills

Last week, the following bill was discharged from the Senate Labor Committee and immediately placed on the Senate calendar.

S.4212/A.4193 would waive the current 7 week UI benefits waiting period for strikers if the employer hires replacement workers during a strike. It is currently on third reading Senate calendar # 967.

The following bill moved to third reading on Senate calendar # 975.

S.7161 would permit "card check" union recognition at residential facilities for the disabled.

The following bill was reported from the Assembly Labor Committee earlier this week.

A.6251/S.680 would restrict healthcare employers' ability to assign overtime to nurses.

Proposed Amendment Causes Concern To Tax Committee

A proposed change to tax administrative procedure is causing concern among members of the Committee on Taxation, namely, that a taxpayer must first pre-pay a tax assessment and penalty in "cases of mathematical or clerical errors or failure to pay the tax due shown on the return or for any stamps purchased, and any interest or penalty related thereto" before proceeding to an administrative hearing. The proposal is contained in Part L of Budget Bill S.6060A/A.9560A.

New Yorkers currently are entitled to an appeal "as a matter of right" to the independent Division of Tax Appeals. This right to administrative appeal without a prepayment is necessary because the tax that is appealed is not due until a final decision on the tax is rendered by the Tax Appeals Tribunal.

The Business Council Committee on Taxation members believe that a pre-hearing payment requirement might have a significant financial impact on the taxpayer and possibly could discourage the taxpayer from participating in the administrative appeal process.

Committee on Taxation members have met with the Department of Taxation & Finance and are exploring amending the proposal to separate any tax, penalty, and interest that might be owed on all tax due notices. This would permit the Department to collect tax and interest that is rightfully owed while preserving the taxpayers right to appeal penalties and interest without pre-payment, based upon reasonable cause.