Updates from the Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions

Environmental, Consumer and Good Government Groups Join Legislators to Demand State Public Service Commission Enforce Utility Disclosure Law
PSC must end a decade of exempting power generating companies from public reporting
June 1, 2011

State Assemblymember Jim Brennan (D-Bkln), chair of the Assembly Standing Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, Senator Kevin Parker, environmental, consumer, and good government groups joined together at a press conference on June 1, 2011 to call on the State Public Service Commission to enforce the State’s law requiring utilities to file detailed annual financial and operation reports. Brennan discovered the PSC has been exempting power generating companies from the reporting requirement, while researching the claim made by Entergy Corporation that closing its Indian Point nuclear operations would be expensive.

Brennan discovered that the PSC had granted Entergy exemptions from filing the reports in 2000 and 2001, as it had other power generators going back to 1991. The groups called on Entergy to open its books to public scrutiny, as required by New York State law, and called on the Public Service Commission to enforce the law and require power generators to comply with reporting requirements.

“The Commission used the fig leaf of a filing at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as compliance with New York law,” Mr. Brennan said, “but in a letter to my office on May 12, the PSC admitted that ‘FERC filing requirements for wholesale generators have either been abandoned entirely, or, if they continue to exist, they provide only a portion of the information required by Section 66(6).’ As a result there has been a de facto exemption from New York law for many years.”

After Mr. Brennan wrote the Commission a second letter demanding a list of all the electric corporations in the State who had been exempted from annual reporting, the Commission acknowledged that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had effectively abandoned meaningful reporting requirements. It stated in its letter to Mr. Brennan that it would institute a proceeding to review filing obligations of wholesale generators. “What action the Commission will take now is unknown, but there is a law on disclosure and pervasive non-compliance at this time,” Mr. Brennan said.

Mr. Brennan introduced legislation in April (A.7306) that would override the PSC’s actions and require the annual reports of the power generators. The bill was reported from the Corporations Committee and is now on the calendar of the State Assembly. State Senator Kevin Parker has introduced the bill in the State Senate (S.5514).

Supporters of Mr. Brennan’s bill include the Hudson Riverkeeper, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Citizen Action, and the Sierra Club. "For years the owners of Indian Point nuclear power plant have been threatening grid instability if forced to close," said Annie Wilson, Energy Chair of the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. "Restoring the requirement for disclosure will provide some accountability to such claims and provide the public with an essential tool to plan for a sustainable energy future. New York power corporations must be required to disclose all information that is relevant to the public interest."

Other organizations backing the bill are Environmental Advocates, the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, and the League of Women Voters of New York State. “We applaud Assemblymember Brennan for bringing back transparency by mandating that the Public Service Commission require energy producing companies to submit annual reports,” said Barbara Bartoletti, Legislative Director for the League. “It is vitally important that the public have information about the energy production and profits of these companies. This legislation will force the Public Service Commission to gather annual reports from energy producing companies which will allow for greater transparency.“

Laura Haight, New York Public Interest Research Group's senior environmental associate said, "NYPIRG commends Assemblymember Brennan for shining a light on the PSC's failure to implement the state law requiring New York's energy corporations to file annual reports. For far too long, ratepayers, regulators and interested members of the public have had no access to key financial and operational information about electric and gas companies doing business in New York. With the state facing critically important energy decisions, such as the future of the Indian Point nuclear reactors, it is stunning that we lack this information."