Utility Merger Opponents Ask The PSC For A Rehearing
Opponents of an approved utility merger in the Hudson Valley are asking the state Public Service Commission to reconsider its decision.
The New York State Public Service Commission approved the $1.5 billion acquisition by Canadian energy company Fortis Inc. of Poughkeepsie-based CH Energy Group, parent company of Central Hudson Gas and Electric in mid-June. The deal was closed by the end of the month, after the PSC issued a written order expanding upon the verbal OK. Any objections or comments to the written order had to be received within 30 days: by Friday, July 26. Three petitions were filed. One is from Citizens for Local Power and a municipal consortium. Utilities attorney Dan Duthie advises the group.
He says after having reviewed the written order, he came to the following conclusion.
U.S. Senator Charles Schumer called for evidentiary hearings. Again, here’s Duthie.
The two other petitions filed with the PSC, also calling for a rehearing, are from the Public Utility Law Project, and Democratic State Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, who has waved a red flag pursuant to the merger from early in the process.
Denise Doring VanBuren is a spokeswoman for Central Hudson. She says Central Hudson and Fortis accepted and signed the Commission’s order, and the transaction was completed at the end of June.
Merger enhancements in the final days prior to the PSC approval included a reworked agreement with union workers, and a one-year rate freeze extension. Attorney Dan Duthie balks at the latter. He says in addition to a rehearing, Citizens for Local Power is also requesting the establishment of temporary utility rates until new, lower rates can be set. He alleges Central Hudson has been over-earning for years.
Duthie points out that the three petitions are separate. He says they are similar but with variations.
An attorney for Central Hudson filed a letter with the PSC July 26 as well, though in response to a letter filed by the Public Utility Law Project in mid-July. The attorney states in the letter that there has not yet been ample time to review the petitions for a rehearing, and that Central Hudson reserves the right to answer the petitions at a later date. Requests for comment from a PSC spokesman were not returned in time for this broadcast.