Hudson Valley News
7:59 pm
Thu May 16, 2013

Execs Respond To Schumer Re: Proposed Utility Merger

Several elected officials have raised concerns over the past few months about a proposed utility merger in the Hudson Valley. Among them is U.S. Senator Charles Schumer.  And now top executives of the two companies have responded.

The proposed merger between Canadian energy company Fortis and Poughkeepsie-based CH Energy Group, parent of Central Hudson Gas and Electric Corporation, has stoked several flames of opposition to and concern about the union. Senator Schumer was in Newburgh and Poughkeepsie earlier this month, urging top brass at both companies to answer questions.

Steven Lant is chairman, president and CEO of CH Energy Group. He says he and Fortis CFO Barry Perry would like to meet face-to-face with Schumer.

Repeated calls to Schumer’s office were not returned in time for this broadcast, so it is not known whether the senator’s questions have been answered satisfactorily. Again, here’s Schumer from his press conference at the beginning of May.

The letter to Schumer, dated May 14 and released by Central Hudson Thursday afternoon, answers four questions: How will the transaction affect ratepayers? How will the transaction affect infrastructure investment? How will the transaction affect green energy investments? And, what preparations are being made for future storms?

Schumer and others, including elected officials, have expressed concern that the ratepayers would end up picking up some of the tab of the actual deal. Lant and Perry write to Schumer that no external costs of the transaction or goodwill will be reflected in rates under any circumstances. Schumer and others are also concerned that a one-year rate freeze is too short a timeframe. CH Energy’s Lant says there likely will be rate hikes after the freeze period ends.

He says that will be up to the Public Service Commission to decide. And that $50 million in customer benefits is based upon a joint proposal from Fortis and CH Energy filed in January.

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