Investigative Post: Quick Hits

by / Nov. 3, 2015 11pm EST

CLOUDS OVER SOLAR CITY: Investors are bailing on SolarCity at the same time Andrew Cuomo has sunk $750 million in public funds into building and equipping a plant for Elon Musk’s faltering company. Guess this is what happens when government tries to pick winners and losers.

The company’s stock price tumbled 20 percent last week and has bottomed out at about $30 a share, half of what it traded for a year ago. Its price fell after SolarCity filed a quarterly report with the Securities and Exchange Commission that revealed a whopping $234 million loss. SolarCity lost a staggering $537 million through the end of September. That’s more than net losses of $375 million in 2014, $152 million in 2013, and $92 million in 2012.

See a pattern? You may be one up on the governor.

Stock analysts are divided over what it all means. Some feel SolarCity will ride out the storm. Others feel the mounting losses signal “warning signs that point to a collapse of the business model,” in the words of one business website, Seeking Alpha.

In a somewhat related development, Cuomo announced that Soraa, another clean-tech firm that was supposed to set up shop at Riverbend, is instead locating to suburban Syracuse. State officials said SolarCity’s sprawling 1.2-million-square-foot plant has crowded out Soraa. But SolarCity is occupying only 88 of Riverbend’s 184 acres. What gives?

DIRTY WATER: Cheektowaga and state officials finally agreed on how the town will begin to address its sewer overflows.

Problem is, the dispute dragged on for seven years.

Taking that long is not uncommon of state and federal agencies. Consider it took 15 years before the Buffalo Sewer Authority and the Environmental Protection Agency agreed last May on terms of the city’s $380 million sewer plan. Then, localities with sewer overflow problems are given 10 to 20 years to complete the work.

The Department of Environmental Conservation rejected the town’s plan last month for the second time in five years. The town has not committed enough resources to sealing cracked pipes and surveying private property for prohibited downspout and sump pump connections to the sewer system, the DEC said.

Town officials argued that the work is too tedious. Instead, they wanted to construct a relief sewer.

The town relented on Oct. 28, after a private meeting attended by some 30 local and state officials.

The real victims here are the waterways, such as Scajaquada Creek. Each year, the town and the City of Buffalo together spew more than a half-billion gallons of raw sewage mixed with stormwater into the Scajaquada.


• Trivia Night, featuring Maryalice Demler as quizmaster, on Tuesday, November 10. Game begins at 7pm at Brawler’s Deli, in the basement of Pearl Street Grill & Brewery, 76 Pearl St.

• A happy hour panel discussion that seeks to answer the question: “Is Buffalo really getting its mojo back?” Allen Street Hardware, 245 Allen St., will host the discussion on Tuesday, December 1 at 7pm. Admission includes free drink.

Visit InvestigativePost.org/events for details and to purchase tickets.

The Public is the place to find print versions of muckraking reports produced byInvestigative Post, the only news organization in Buffalo and Western New York dedicated exclusively to watchdog journalism. The collaboration between the two new organizations rounds out Investigative Post’s local press partnerships, which includes WGRZ TV 2 On Your Side; WBFO, 88.7 FM, Buffalo’s NPR news station; and Capitol Pressroom, an interview program carried on 20 public radio stations throughout upstate. All Investigative Post content is also published on InvestigativePost.org.

Jim Heaney, formerly an investigative reporter with the Buffalo News, founded Investigative Post in 2012 as a nonprofit news organization. Its board includes Tom Toles, the Pulitzer-Prize-winning editorial cartoonist.