Data Center: It’s a matter of law

Editorial for The Buffalo News

The proposed Verizon data center in Somerset would be a welcome addition in an area that is bereft of the kind of good-paying jobs it promises, but a hurdle must be first be cleared.

But there’s more to our support than just the 200 jobs Verizon is be expected to create. There’s little doubt that despite the amount of money in hydropower it would cost, the wave of interest the company could generate among other businesses looking at the region would be priceless.

But there’s a hurdle and a threat: Is a full environmental review required for this proposed development? Verizon and officials in Somerset say it is not, but a lawsuit has been filed to try to force the review. Verizon has said it might locate the center elsewhere if the project is delayed.

This page favored the review, but the fact is that this is now a matter for a judge. If the law requires a review, then there isn’t much wiggle room. If, on the other hand, the judge agrees with Verizon and Town of Somerset officials that this project has little environmental impact and, thus, does not require the review, then full speed ahead. One way or another, count us among those who want to see Verizon in Niagara County. The matter is scheduled for court on Wednesday.

The town leaders in Niagara County’s Somerset have been enchanted by the idea of a large-scale project and concluded in a preliminary analysis that there is no need for a large-scale study under the State Environmental Quality Re-view Act.

The data center would take a soybean field and turn it in-to a 1 million- square-foot complex, with the high-paying, high-tech jobs that go along with such an endeavor. There may only be a couple of hundred of those jobs—not enough, some would say, to justify the $614 million in hydropower discounts and breaks on sales and property taxes—but there is a broader vision.

Similar companies tend to look at what their competition does. Yahoo! opened a brand new $150 million data center in Lockport, largely because of hydropower and other incentives, and now this area has an opportunity to land a second data center. If Verizon comes, others may as well. The cumulative impact on the regional economy could eventually be great.

Citizen lawsuits and complaints were predictable in this case and, regardless of the outcome, we hope Verizon will build its data center in Niagara County and be good neighbors and good stewards of their environment.

In the end, businesses and communities have to work together to achieve the common goals of providing good jobs in a place where it is good to live.

[buffalonews.com]

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