State Senator James Skoufis, Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan and the Public Utility Law Project (PULP) are calling for investigations into Central Hudson. And with good reason. In addition to the recent multi-day outage affecting 67,000 customers in Ulster County alone, residents and local businesses are now being hit with huge bill increases, irregular and incomprehensible bills. More than 55,000 customers with overdue payments over 60 days face closures as of April. Public anger and frustration have reached a breaking point and elected officials are responding.
Investigations, whether conducted by the New York State Senate or the Public Service Commission, which regulates investor-owned utilities, are certainly appropriate. The public has every right to know what Central Hudson management and its shareholders have done to prevent the current disruptions, loss of trust and human suffering. And to wonder if the shareholders should be rewarded by the 9% return that is integrated into the budget of the regulated public service.
In the recent tariff case, Citizens for Local Power argued that the shareholders of Central Hudson (as the name suggests) should share responsibility for the unpayable debt that afflicts so many of their customers. Without debt relief, there will be many thousands of closures. People will lose their credit rating. Some will lose their homes. If New York’s “public” utilities are to earn that name, their owners must clean up, pay for the disruption they’ve caused, and help the people they serve get back on their feet.
Susan H. Gillespie
Kingston, New York
The writer is chairman of the board of directors
citizens for local power