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Hudson Valley News

House Passes Legislation Curtailing FERC Enforcement Of Capacity Zone

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The House of Representatives has passed an amendment put forth by two New York congressmen who want to rein in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and undo a new capacity zone.

The joint amendment is from Hudson Valley Congressmen Chris Gibson and Sean Patrick Maloney. Gibson, a Republican, and Maloney, a Democrat, say the House passed the Fiscal Year 2015 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill by a vote of 253-170. That bill includes Gibson’s and Maloney’s joint amendment to prohibit the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission from implementing, administering, or enforcing the new capacity zone. Here’s Maloney.

“And the House of Representatives has now by voice vote passed an amendment that says FERC cannot enforce or fund this docket order, the specific order relating to the energy price hike in the Hudson Valley. That is a big win. And we could not have done it if we were not working together.”

And here’s Gibson:

“FERC should come out today and just say in light of the will expressed on the floor of the United State House, we’re going to vacate and reconsider and work with all stakeholders and parties and individuals to try to come up with a better way where we can all get where we need to be,” Gibson says. 

“That’s exactly right,” says Maloney.

That was Maloney at the end. A FERC spokeswoman declined to comment. Gibson says the next step is to have an identical amendment pass the Senate.

“Senator Schumer has been strong on this issue. He has been out front and vocal on this,” says Gibson. “Sean and I are asking for him to carry this in the United States Senate so that it passes with the same language that we passed last night so we don’t have a conference issue.”

A spokesperson for Democratic Senator from New York Charles Schumer could not be reached in time for this broadcast. However, Schumer has voiced in recent months his opposition to the new capacity zone. The capacity zone was implemented May 1, and groups the lower Hudson Valley with New York City. Mid-Hudson Valley residential and business customers are already seeing higher electric bills.  The new capacity zone is intended to address energy shortfalls by raising electricity prices to attract new electric generators to downstate New York. Paul Steidler is spokesman for New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance, which supports the new capacity zone. He has this to say about the congressmen’s amendment.

“It’s really a poor use of government time and government talents in an attempt to micro-manage an independent federal agency,” says Steidler. “If politicians want to cut New Yorkers bills, one of the first things that they can do is cut the array of energy taxes that people in the state pay, which account for about 25 percent of the typical New Yorker’s bill. But what you have here is something that’s interference in what has been a very deliberative process that FERC has undertaken for a seven-year period of time.”

Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro has been vocal in his opposition to the new capacity zone and his frustration with FERC.

“To reform the process is very, very important and that impact will reach well beyond the mid-Hudson Valley,” says Molinaro. “I feel badly for anyone in any part of America that would have to live through this kind of action feeling somewhat paralyzed, and having a community feeling that their voices could not impact the decision is just anti-Democratic.”

Maloney, Gibson, and Molinaro held a conference call with reporters, during which Maloney posed an idea to Gibson.

“Chris, I’m going to suggest this. I haven’t talked to you about it, but I’m going to put you on the spot,” says Maloney. “I think you and I should write a letter jointly tomorrow, today, to FERC saying just what we’ve been saying on this call, saying in light of the House, of the action of the House of Representatives, we’re calling on you to take a step back, reconsider this, vacate the order, and work with us and the local folks on real solutions to legitimate capacity concerns going forward that don’t involve crushing ratepayers. And we should…”

“Yeah, absolutely, absolutely,” Gibson interjects.

“We can reach out a hand here as well, but there’s going to be a fist in that velvet glove,” says Maloney. “That’s what our message is with this legislation.” 

“Absolutely, Gibson responds. “We’ll make it so.”

Maloney and Gibson fought to secure specific language in their report that requires FERC to reexamine and reform the way that they conduct this type of decision-making to ensure that the Commissioners hear and consider the concerns of local ratepayers.

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