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Advocacy group tells PSC Central Hudson should pay any fines from ongoing investigations

Dec 08, 2022 1:00 am

Roger Hannigan Gilson is reporting for the Times Union the Public Utility Law Project, a group that advocates for utility customers, filed a motion on December 5, with the state Public Service Commission requesting a prudence review, which would determine if Central Hudson Gas and Electric spent money inappropriately in a way that harmed its customers. The group also wants "every individually identified problem" found by the prudence review to result in a fine "to be returned directly to the company's ratepayers," according to the motion. The PSC is investigating Central Hudson's billing practices, as is a state Senate committee chaired by Sen. James Skoufis. Widespread problems with billing were reported starting in September 2021 when Central Hudson switched to a new billing system. The company appears to be rectifying its billing issues, but the amount of money owed to the company in back payment has changed little from the- summer. In October, nearly 19 percent of Central Hudson's residential customers owed more than $64.5 million, or roughy $1,110 per account, according to Central Hudson's Collection Activity Report. Public Utility Law Project Executive Director Laurie Wheelock said her organization filed the motion requesting a prudence review because "we were so troubled. ...It's just very concerning — it's been well over a year now." Wheelock's organization is concerned about the taxpayer-funded utility customer subsidies, such as the Home Energy Assistance Program, and whether those funds were properly received and used by Central Hudson to help low-income residents. The group is also troubled by the possibility that Central Hudson could pass fines resulting from either the investigation or the prudence review onto ratepayers. The PSC said the investigation into Central Hudson's billing practices was ongoing, but could not provide a possible completion date. The second investigation, undertaken by the state Senate's Investigations and Government Operations Committee, is close to being completed, and the final report is expected in early January. Read more in the Times Union.