ULSTER COUNTY – On August 29th, Central Hudson presented details of its new proposed rate increase to an audience of intervenors, including representatives of the Public Utility Law Project (PULP), the Utility Intervention Unit of New York State (UIU), Dutchess and Ulster Counties, the office of Assemblywoman Sarahana Shrestha, and Communities for Local Power (CLP), among others. If approved, the rate hike would increase Central Hudson’s revenues by more than $180 million. For customers, this means a typical residential customer’s bill would go up by an estimated $30 a month for electricity, plus another $30 a month for gas customers. Documents filed by the company in the rate case also show that, from February 2020 through June 30, 2023, its residential customers’ arrears greater than 60 days grew by 1,044%, to $96 million, while non-residential arrears grew by 1.971%, to $29 million. In July, when the company filed its testimony, approximately 66,000 residential customers and 10,000 commercial customers were at least 60 days behind on paying their bills. Many thousands of Central Hudson customers have also received inaccurate and overstated bills.
The Administrative Law Judges overseeing the case for the Public Service Commission (PSC) have stated that they welcome public input. Given the size of the proposed rate increase, Central Hudson’s history of poor service, and the incapacity of already underserved and hard-strapped community members to afford the proposed increases, Communities for Local Power and other intervenor groups encourage Central Hudson’s customers and interested service organizations to follow the case and to make their opinions known. So far, two online public hearings have been scheduled, on September 9 and September 20. CLP, PULP, and other intervenor groups are asking the PSC to include materials and interpretation services for monolingual Spanish speakers and to add four in-person hearings, two during the day and two in the evening, so that all customers, including those who lack reliable access to online meetings, can voice their concerns.
“It’s crucial that we have folks attend these hearings, to speak up about how they will be negatively impacted by rate increases, or whether or not their billing issues have yet to be remedied,” says Jess Mullen, Executive Director of Communities for Local Power. “With online hearings, there’s some complex technological hoops to jump through in order to register. We want to make sure this process is transparent and accessible to those who are most vulnerable to rate hikes, which is why we are requesting in-person hearings that are easier for people to attend.” Communities for Local Power has created a basic instruction guide online that may be found at www.bit.ly/cenhudrateincrease, and those who need assistance over the phone may call them at (845) 514-5495.