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CH Energy, Fortis Enhance Merger Proposal

Christopher Sessums, flickr

The companies involved in a proposed utility merger in the Hudson Valley have offered enhancements to the merger proposal. Opponents say they are too little, too late. The controversial merger proposal has led both sides to pound the pavement to tell their sides of the story.

The proposed Fortis acquisition of Poughkeepsie-based CH Energy Group for $1.5 billion now has a few enhancements, in response to several requests from elected officials and local residents.  CH Energy Group is parent of Central Hudson Gas and Electric Corporation. Central Hudson spokesman John Maserjian says the enhancements include extending an initially proposed one-year rate freeze an additional year, through July 1 of 2015.

Another enhancement announced Thursday is doubling community relations support from five years to a minimum of 10.

Jen Metzger is with grassroots group Citizens for Local Power.

She means Canadian energy company Fortis.

Earlier this month, two administrative law judges issued a recommended decision against the merger, saying the benefits in the joint proposal from January are outweighed by overall detriments. CH Energy and Fortis executives say the enhancements are in response to public input received since that decision, noting that the New York State Public Service Commission could decide on the merger transaction during its June 13 meeting.  In announcing the enhancements, CH Energy Chairman Steven Lant notes that absent Fortis, customers will be deprived of nearly $50 million in benefits and CH Energy will need to seek near-term delivery rate increases to fund capital investments. Democratic Assemblymember Kevin Cahill has been critical of the proposed merger for some time.

Also in the enhancement announcement, Lant says Central Hudson’s future is very uncertain without Fortis as a partner. Cahill comments.

Central Hudson’s Maserjian reiterates a longstanding statement that post-acquisition, Central Hudson would continue as a stand-alone company.

The enhancements come on the heels of a highly-praised revised agreement with Local 320 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

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