In late July, Central Hudson quietly filed a proposed rate plan with the PSC that would raise rates considerably in the coming year. The company submitted some 30 separate filings detailing what it proposes to spend money on. To pay for them all, the company says it needs to raise an additional $43 million revenues from its electricity customers and $18.1 million from gas customers, which amounts to rate increases of as much as 11.6% and 14.9%, respectively. As soon as CLP learned of the plan we began digging into the filings, uncovering a number of questionable spending items, and have been mobilizing the public and local elected leaders to get involved. Ahead of PSC public hearings on the rate case this past month in Poughkeepsie, Kingston, and Newburgh, CLP Director Jen Metzger prepared a helpful FAQ on the rate plan proposal for citizens and local governments, as well as a preliminary list of CLP concerns. At the Poughkeepsie hearing, public statements were fairly small in number but strong in message: Members of Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson stated plainly that keeping the electricity on can be a matter of life and death, and that rate hikes make it difficult for low-income families to pay their bills, increasing the likelihood of shut-offs by the utility. In Kingston, more than 100 people turned out for the hearings at Kingston City Hall on October 10, speaking to a wide range of issues related to the rate plan. Among others, these included opposing the rate hike and calling for reduced fixed charges, opposing the proposed increase in shareholder profit at ratepayer expense, calling for accountability on the promised long-term benefits of the Fortis takeover, urging greater utility support for the shift to electric vehicles, opposing a proposed state-of-the-art training center and urging the utility to work with existing educational institutions in bolstering training programs. Click here to see the video of the public hearings, thanks to Clark Richters and KingstonCitizens.org!
TAKE ACTION! – So far, over 120 members of the public and elected officials have submitted comments directly on the PSC website. You can submit comments, too! Take a look at CLP’s background resources, and post comments for PSC Case Numbers 17-E-0459 and 17-G-0460(click “Post Comments” button on the top right-hand side).
CLP is partnering with AGREE, Acadia, the Public Utility Law Project (PULP), and other organizations across the state to press the Public Service Commission to reduce utility fixed charges—a component of our electricity (and gas) rates that are up to five times higher than in neighboring states. Fixed charges place an undue burden on utility customers, especially those who can least afford it, and severely limit the ability of New Yorkers to control energy costs by reducing consumption or installing renewable energy on their buildings.
Central Hudson has the highest fixed charges in the state, and among the highest in the country. (According to PULP’s Richard Berkeley, the company’s fixed rates were the fifth highest in the U.S. in 2015.) A reduction in fixed charges in the current rate case could lead to similar reductions in other NY utility service territories. Currently, Central Hudson is charging residents $24 per month and proposes to increase the charge to $25, followed by O&R ($20), National Grid ($17), Con Ed ($15.76), and NYSEG/RG&E ($15.11). By contrast, in New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, fixed charges are between $3 – $6 per month.
TAKE ACTION – CLP has spearheaded a statewide campaign in collaboration with partner organizations outside the Mid-Hudson region to encourage local elected leaders to urge the PSC to reduce unreasonable high fixed charges. So far, over 100 elected leaders have signed on to a letter to the PSC. This letter was sent to your local and county representatives—please urge them to sign on if they haven’t done so already. If you would like to know if your elected leaders have already signed, contact us at . The deadline for signatures is November 3.