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NYS PSC Approves Fortis, CH Energy Merger

Daniel Oines, flickr

The New York State Public Service Commission Thursday approved a utility merger in the Hudson Valley. The $1.5 billion acquisition of the Poughkeepsie-based utility had its share of controversy in recent months.

And so went the Public Service Commission’s vote in favor of the acquisition by Canadian energy company Fortis Inc. of CH Energy Group, parent company of Central Hudson Gas and Electric Corporation. Supporters, including Barry Perry, vice president, finance and chief financial officer of Fortis, are gratified.

He refers to the official written order to be issued by the PSC, likely within a week or so. Yet opponents such as Dan Duthie call the day tremendously disappointing. Duthie is a utilities attorney who has been advising opponents Citizens for Local Power and a municipal consortium.

Elected officials who voiced strong opposition to the merger include Democratic Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, who criticized the PSC’s approval, while U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, also a Democrat, had said he could not support the merger unless his concerns were met. Yet some elected officials who had raised several concerns now say they are pleased with recent enhancements to the merger proposal. Democratic State Senator Terry Gipson says he met with those involved in the merger.

Some of the concerns, and subsequent enhancements, include a reworked agreement with union workers and a one-year rate freeze extension.

CH Energy Group Chairman, president, and CEO Steven Lant breathed a sigh of relief.

Jen Metzger is with Citizens for Local Power, the group advised by attorney Dan Duthie. Metzger says that while the group was formed initially solely to oppose the utility merger, she sees the group continuing with its local power mission, and taking what she calls a negative decision by the PSC down a positive road.

As Citizens for Local Power looks past Thursday’s decision in favor of Fortis and CH Energy Group, Dan Duthie notes there are two possible avenues for appealing the PSC decision, but he would have to review the written order to assess the viability of taking the case further and consult his client.

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