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State Sen. George Maziarz Op-ed Supporting Fortis Acquisition of CHEnergy

State Sen. George Maziarz Op-ed Supporting Fortis Acquisition of CHEnergy

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Published by Tony Adamis
Op-ed submission by state Sen. George Maziarz supporting proposed acquisition of CHEnergy / Central Hudson by Canadian firm Fortis.
April 2013
Op-ed submission by state Sen. George Maziarz supporting proposed acquisition of CHEnergy / Central Hudson by Canadian firm Fortis.
April 2013

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Published by: Tony Adamis on Apr 21, 2013
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04/21/2013

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 Attached and below is proposed guest editorial that I am submittingon behalf of State Senator George Maziarz who Chairs the StateSenate Committee on Energy and Telecommunications. The Senator has been reading about some of the controversy about the merger,and in his role as Chair of the Committee that oversees the utility companies in the Senate, he felt compelled to weigh in. In looking at the press coverage, and letters the editor that have been availablelocally, it appears that most sentiment is running in opposition. TheSenator view could offer some balance. Senator Maziarz representsthe 62nd Senate District that encompasses all of Niagara andOrleans Counties and part of Monroe County.
Matt Nelligan, Director of Operations and Public Policy Senator George Maziarz 
Central Hudson-Fortis Merger is good for economy, good for jobs andgood for customersCharting a course for New York State’s energy industry that is bothreliable and affordable is a demanding challenge, one that requiresvision, courage – and common sense. As the chairman of the New York State Senate’s Energy and Telecommunications Committee, Idaily consider public policy decisions that must balance affordabilitywith the support necessary to properly incentivize such importantgoals as renewable energy, economic development andinfrastructure investments.In my role, I have had a chance to read the documents associatedwith the proposed merger of Fortis and Central Hudson Gas andElectric. My analysis has lead me to the conclusion that theDepartment of Public Service has, over the last year fully vetted thisprocess and that the merger should go forward.Let me be clear, that I do not come to this decision lightly. In fact, Ihave had areas of disagreement with Central Hudson in the past.One clear example happened last year, when I strongly disagreedwith the utility’s efforts to limit customers access to net metering. Ifiled comments with the Public Service Commission in oppositionand currently carry a bill to raise these caps in statute.
 
When it comes to the facts behind this merger however, the benefitsclearly outweigh any risks and I have concluded that the jointproposal is good for ratepayers and that many if not all of theobjections that have been raised are either based on a faultypremise or motivated by political concerns.Simply put, without this agreement (which will retain Central Hudsonas a local utility with protections for its customers and employees),local homeowners and businesses will not receive an estimated $50million in benefits. In fact, without this agreement, customers willface nearly $40 million in expenses that Fortis is offering to pay for-- costs associated with operating expenses such as post-stormservice restoration, including that for Superstorm Sandy.Facts are facts and the benefits of this transaction are many: a ratefreeze between June 2013 and June 2014; additional performancerequirements for both electric and gas systems; support for low-income customer programs; opportunities to increase retail accessparticipation; funds to spur economic development within theregion; a commitment to continue Central Hudson’s strong supportof civic activities; an increased number of local residents on theBoard of Directors; the willingness of the Fortis organization toinvest capital to improve the electric and natural gas systems;strong support for Governor Cuomo’s Energy Highway infrastructurepriorities; the elimination of costs associated with being a publiclyheld company; and many more.Fortis is not the first foreign corporation to purchase a New YorkState utility; in fact National Grid and Iberdrola now operate utilitiesin the state and those acquisitions proceeded largely withoutincident. A comparison of the community benefits offered in thosetransactions and this one, show that they are at least equivalent andin some cases better.One charge that I have heard leveled against this merger needs tobe addressed head on-namely that there is not enough support forrenewable energy programs associated with this acquisition. I’vealways considered past performance to be the best predictor of future behavior. Currently,1,400 solar installations are operating or pending in CentralHudson’s service territory; the Mid-Hudson Valley leads New York in

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