Cahill Calls on Area Legislators to Join in Opposition to Central Hudson Rate Hike

Larkin and Kirwan enlist in the effort
August 18, 2006

Assemblymember Kevin Cahill (D – Ulster, Dutchess) urged other lawmakers in the Central Hudson service territory to join him in his efforts to encourage the New York State Consumer Protection Board to challenge the recently approved utility rate increases. In a letter to area legislators, Mr. Cahill stated, “We were elected to ensure that state government works for the benefit of the people. I am asking you today to join me in urging the Consumer Protection Board to continue to act in the interests of the families and businesses we represent by demanding a rehearing before the Public Service Commission.”

The letter was sent to all state legislators who represent ratepayers residing within the Central Hudson service territory, a list that includes State Senators Bonacic, Larkin, Leibell, Saland and Seward and Assemblymembers Crouch, Hooker and Kirwan. Senator William Larkin (R – Orange, Ulster) immediately joined the effort. Mr. Cahill said, “I am encouraged by the positive response I have received so far, particularly by the enthusiasm shown by my colleagues who have already agreed to take action.”

“This latest rate increase could be devastating to many households and businesses throughout our region,” said Senator Larkin. “Central Hudson should be made accountable for instituting a system that will ensure fair rates and also increase the use of efficient, clean and renewable energy technologies. My colleagues and I in the Hudson Valley will continue our urgent appeal to the State Consumer Protection Board on behalf of area residents as it considers action before the Public Service Commission.”

Assemblymember Kirwan said, “Right now, with the exception of Hawaii – a geographic aberration – our constituents are paying the highest electricity rates of any state in the country. It is unconscionable that already struggling families, in addition to all their other burdens, must now be forced to come up with this additional money in order to make ends meet. I am happy to join Kevin Cahill in this battle.”

In the appeal to his colleagues, Mr. Cahill expressed concern that the motion by the Public Service Commission allowing the Central Hudson rate hike to go forward failed to provide meaningful consumer protections mitigating the impact of price increases on ratepayers. “Glaringly absent from the decision is the reinstatement of a Fixed Price Option for low-income ratepayers, a provision advocated for by both the Consumer Protection Board and the Public Utility Law Project,” Assemblymember Cahill said in his letter.

“Further, I find it particularly troubling that the Commission has failed to require measures that would hold the Utility accountable for their proposed capital expenditures, thereby ensuring that they are properly directed towards enhancing the reliability, safety and effectiveness of the system,” Mr. Cahill added. Central Hudson has been granted the authority to raise rates in order to fund a three year $229 million capital plan. “This raises serious questions,” said Assemblymember Cahill. “There are no guarantees that these projects will improve the grid, no requirements to justify that the projects are necessary to enhance reliability, and finally, no oversight to ensure that these undertakings will not be riddled with waste, fraud and abuse. Ratepayers deserve assurances that their money is going to be spent wisely.”

Last week, Assemblymember Cahill asked the Consumer Protection Board to challenge the ruling by the Public Service Commission. The agency has yet to indicate whether they will continue to pursue the matter.