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PSC Adds Hearings, Comment Time For Proposed Utility Merger

Christopher Sessums, flickr

The New York State Public Service Commission is extending the comment period for a proposed utility merger after some area residents and lawmakers requested the extension.

Democratic State Senator Terry Gipson is one who requested additional time for the public to comment, along with additional hearings, on the proposed merger between Poughkeepsie-based CH Energy Group, Central Hudson Gas and Electric Corporation’s parent, with Canadian energy company Fortis, Inc. And while he is glad there is an extension, he says it should have been double. In addition, he says he is disappointed the Public Service Commission, or PSC, is not granting his and others’ request to have representatives from both Central Hudson and Fortis present to take questions at the hearings.

A PSC spokesman says the new deadline is May 1, yet if someone were to submit a comment after May 1, the PSC would not reject the comment. He notes the PSC will accept comments until making a final determination, for which no date has been set.

And here’s Central Hudson spokesman John Maserjian on whether Central Hudson will voluntarily have representatives at the public hearings.

Gipson says Fortis officials should be on hand during the hearings.

Democratic State Assemblyman Kevin Cahill also requested additional hearings and comment time, and has raised a number of concerns, including whether Fortis could override state regulations through the use of NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. Democratic State Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk has called for more transparency surrounding the merger, saying the deal could affect the energy costs of families and small businesses throughout the Hudson Valley. Yet Central Hudson’s Maserjian has repeatedly said Central Hudson will be, for the most part, the same Central Hudson its customers know.

He says Central Hudson would operate as a stand-alone company, and there would be a freeze on electric and gas delivery rates through July of 2014.

The PSC has scheduled hearings for April 17 in Poughkeepsie, and April 18 in Kingston. Both hearings are at 7 p.m.

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