NYS Senator Rolls Out Affordable Energy Plan

Mar 13, 2014

Credit Courtesy of the Office of NYS Senator Terry Gipson

A New York state Senator from the Hudson Valley has unveiled an energy plan he hopes will ease financial burdens and move the state forward. 

State Senator Terry Gipson has an affordable energy plan he says would bring relief from taxes and rate hikes to families and businesses.

“I just can’t sit by any longer and watch hardworking families and business owners suffer under these regressive energy taxes,” says Gipson.

The Democrat from Rhinebeck says his plan has five points.

“We are proposing that we adopt a comprehensive energy conservation program”, says Gipson. “We want to see an independent consumer advocate appointed to represent residential consumers. We want to stop the capacity zone rate increases that will, if they go into effect on May 1, increase our constituents’ electric bills significantly. And we want to see new energy providers invest more in renewable energy. And, most importantly of all, we really want to see New York State repeal the 18A utility tax, which is something we’ve lobbied for aggressively. And we are asking that the county executive in Dutchess County and the Dutchess County Legislature join our efforts in reducing energy costs by repealing their regressive energy fuel tax.”

Rob Rolison is chairman of the Dutchess County Legislature. The Republican who has launched a bid to unseat Gipson in the 41st Senate District says the repeal of the exemption of the county’s energy tax was a difficult decision that arose because of unfunded mandates from the state.

“If the state can deliver relief from these mandates, we will repeal that energy tax day one. It’s actually in the legislation,” Rolison points out. “We put that in there so if the state says, ‘we’re going to take over some of the programmatic costs,’ we’re going to able to repeal that.”

The 3.75 percent home energy sales tax took effect March 1.  On the state level, Gipson notes he led a phase out of the 18A utility tax in last year’s budget, and that Governor Andrew Cuomo and his tax commission have recommended a full repeal of this tax ahead of schedule.

Another of Gipson’s calls has widespread support from a number of lawmakers and some in the energy community. As mentioned, Gipson wants to halt capacity zone rate increases. Here’s Central Hudson Spokesman John Maserjian.

“What most resonates with Central Hudson is the senator’s opposition to the New Capacity Zone. We are in complete alignment here,” says Maserjian. “The New Capacity Zone would cause quite a bit of damage to our local economy, to households and businesses in the area, with higher energy bills, on the order of up to 6 percent for our residential customers or higher and 10 percent or higher for our large industrial customers.”

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, in August gave the green light to the New York Independent System Operator to create a New Capacity Zone for the lower Hudson Valley region. The zone is intended to address transmission bottlenecks and attract investment in new power plants by, as Maserjian puts it, artificially raising electricity prices.  

The New York State Public Service Commission recently announced it was seeking to have FERC reverse a decision that denies a request to phase in the new zone over a three-year period.  The PSC says FERC has not taken into account state initiatives, including a PSC proceeding under way to address transmission congestion to meet downstate power needs by upgrading transmission lines, adding some 1,000 megawatts of transmission capacity.

FERC, in its decision to deny the phase-in, writes that phasing in the zone would affect the capacity zone market’s ability to send more efficient price signals to attract and maintain sufficient capacity to meet local demand. And here’s Central Hudson’s Maserjian.

“And we together with the New York Public Service Commission and other utilities are going to appeal this decision.”

A number of local, state, and federal elected officials have written to FERC, including Republican Congressman Chris Gibson, who says he has serious concerns and rejects the notion that the only way to invest in infrastructure is to force price increases. Democratic Congresswoman Nita Lowey also penned a letter of opposition, as have many local officials along with community and environmental groups. A FERC spokeswoman declined to comment on any of the letters, citing a still pending matter.

As for Gipson’s five-point energy plan, he says New York has some catching up to do.

“There are 40 other states that have done similar things, that have appointed a consumer advocate, that have implemented conservation programs, and we need to join them and catch up,” Gipson says. “And, in the meantime, I just refuse to sit by and watch energy taxes increase. We just can’t allow it to happen on a state level. We can’t allow it to happen on a county level, a local level and a federal level, and it’s time we stand up and fight back against it.”

Gipson announced his energy plan alongside representatives from Central Hudson, the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce, Riverkeeper, and the owner of a natural market in Beacon.