ALBANY, NY and KINGSTON, NY - The NYS Public Service Commission has initiated formal litigation in the Fortis/Central Hudson rate case under Section 66 of Public Service Law, and today set an evidentiary hearing for Wednesday, January 24 at 10:00 am, continuing each successive business day as needed. The move follows a call by County Executive Jen Metzger for regulators to pursue litigation rather than enter into confidential settlement negotiations, as the Department of Public Service has done in past rate cases. The notice of Evidentiary Hearings was filed with parties to the rate case today and can be found on the Department of Public Service website at https://documents.dps.ny.gov/public/MatterManagement/CaseMaster.aspx?MatterSeq=71378&MNO=23-E-0418.
At the end of October, Ulster County Executive Jen Metzger sent a letter to the New York State Public Service Commission urging the Commission to use its authority to pursue litigation to deny the exorbitant double-digit rate hike requested by Fortis/Central Hudson.
“As someone who has fought for our communities in past rate cases, it has been my experience in these closed-door negotiated settlement proceedings that the power dynamics tend to favor the utility and its army of lawyers over residential and small business customers,” said Ulster County Executive Jen Metzger. “Given the egregious issues with billing and customer service that have plagued our communities for more than two years, we need this rate case litigated in public view.”
The letter highlighted the ongoing investigation by the Department of Public Service into Fortis/Central Hudson's billing problems and poor customer service and emphasized the immense burden borne by Fortis/Central Hudson customers over the past 28 months due to the company's mismanagement.
Over the past 28 months, utility customers have grappled with a series of billing-related issues resulting from what Metzger described as "irresponsible business practices" by the utility company. These issues have led to financial stress and hardship for thousands of customers, with the Department of Public Service receiving over 20,000 complaints. At a public hearing held in the City of Kingston on October 19, residents voiced their frustrations, recounting their experiences with inconsistent and inexplicable bills and the challenging interactions, or lack thereof, with the company's customer service.
Metzger’s October 31 letter highlighted that customer arrears greater than 60 days have grown by over a thousand percent since February 2020, as reported in the company's rate case filing. While recognizing the recent agreement to place an independent billing monitor with Fortis/Central Hudson as a positive step, Metzger renewed her previous call for a forensic audit of customer bills to ensure billing errors are corrected and customers can have confidence in the system's accuracy.
The full text of the letter is attached as a .pdf