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Legislation Would Replace Central Hudson with Publicly Owned Power Authority

New York Assemblymember Sarahana Shrestha and New York State Sen. Michelle Hinchey recently introduced a bill that would create a publicly owned power authority called Hudson Valley Power Authority to replace utility Central Hudson Gas & Electric.

“Publicly owned utilities have the best track record in service reliability, compared to cooperatives and investor-owned utilities in the country,” said Shrestha. “Residential customers of publicly owned utilities pay monthly bills that are on average 4% less than customers of investor-owned utilities, and 16% less than customers of cooperative utilities,” she said.

“In Massena, New York, where the town successfully won a difficult and prolonged fight in the 70s to make its utility public, residents pay some of the cheapest prices for some of the cleanest energy in the state: 4 cents per KWh/hr, with all charges included. Last year our office held seven town halls on the topic of energy democracy, where my constituents were thrilled to learn that there has historically been bipartisan support for public ownership of energy, and in the state of Nebraska there are no investor-owned utilities,” Shrestha said.

The Hudson Valley Power Authority Act authorizes HVPA to purchase Central Hudson as long as the acquisition reduces costs for ratepayers.

It can either purchase the securities or assets of the company or it can exercise the power of eminent domain. Using eminent domain to acquire utilities occurs with some frequency in New York State, according to a news release from Shrestha’s office.

As a state authority, HVPA will be able to issue bonds to finance the acquisition at no cost to taxpayers, and as a public entity, it can finance debt at low interest rates -- one of the reasons utilities are able to immediately lower rates when they go public, the news release said.

The bill limits the role of the New York Public Service Commission to evaluating the authority’s progress towards the state’s climate goals.

HVPA would be governed by a Board of Trustees that is overseen by an Observatory, “which is an increasingly common form of autonomous civil society organization designed to improve community participation, transparency, and benefit-sharing,” the news release said.

The bill also requires the authority to transfer a portion of its revenue into community-controlled trust funds, and to hold assets in a public bank as soon as practicable.

It creates internal climate goals to align with the state’s “and ensures that ratepayers are fairly rewarded for sending energy back to the grid,” the news release said.

APPA offers a variety of resources on its website related to municipalization.

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