Beephan Calls Out Yet Another New Central Hudson Surcharge
Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corporation instituted another new surcharge to cover the shortages that occurred as part of their Covid-19 relief plan. Under the Electric and Gas Utility Bill Relief Program, New York’s Public Service Commission has already leveraged $250 million from the FY 2023 budget to require utility companies to provide a one-time credit to eligible customers.
Unfortunately, individual utilities have chosen to implement their own surcharges to offset the program's cost at a time when New York residents are seeing some of the highest energy costs in history.
Councilman Beephan believes Central Hudson’s new surcharge is highly unacceptable. This is nothing more than a disappointing attempt to cover their Covid-19 relief expenses by placing another burdensome tax on their customers. “It should be fully on Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corporation to eat the costs associated with the pandemic relief.”
To make matters worse, Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corporation is still in the midst of recovering from a failed billing system upgrade which resulted in thousands of fraudulent bills, frustrated customers, and the resignation of the majority of its public relations team. Councilman Beephan is disappointed to see the company continue to prioritize surcharges over resolving their ongoing issues.
Central Hudson’s recent surcharge is just one of many in recent years. In February, Councilman Beephan compiled a list of over 100 complaints in 24 hours against Central Hudson. Community members have shouldered the unacceptable burden of Central Hudson’s egregious price spikes for far too long.
With inflation at a 41-year high, Councilman Beephan urges Central Hudson to reconsider its appalling new surcharge, and instead focus on ways they can bring down prices for already hurting families.
Councilman Beephan has a history of advocating for reasonable energy prices for Dutchess County residents. In response to an overwhelming number of complaints, Councilman Anil Beephan complied a list of over 100 emails, comments, texts, and calls regarding Central Hudson issues. On February 16th, these complaints were sent to Central Hudson staff, the NY Public Service Commission, Governor Kathy Hochul, Senator Sue Serino, Assemblyman Kieran Lalor, and County Executive Marc Molinaro:
February 16, 2022
Charles A. Freni President Central Hudson Gas & Electric
RE: Over 100 Complaints in 24 Hours; Billing Practices & Customer Service
President Freni: On behalf of numerous frustrated residents, I must bring to your attention some ongoing issues currently impacting our community. In less than 24 hours, my office has fielded more than 100 complaints regarding your billing practices, poor customer service efforts, and lack of transparency throughout this transition.
Attached you will find a PDF of over 100 complaints with the customer’s name and full unedited complaint. These complaints originated with a February 15th tweet from your organization, “we have proactively communicated with customers via phone calls, emails, letters, and social media. We are working diligently to resolve the issues with our new Customer Information System and take these issues very seriously.” As you will quickly notice, there is overwhelming disapproval with this statement, as well as a shared sense of anger, frustration, and even helplessness.
One resident states, “Central Hudson will single-handedly crash the economy of the Hudson Valley in the next three months unless something drastic is done to stop them.” Many of our residents are facing economically challenging times. These ongoing billing mishaps, increased rates/fees, and lack of customer service efforts have exceeded the level of inhumane.
I respectfully ask you to take swift actions on your part to rectify these billing issues and restore financial stability to our residents. Additionally, I implore you to ramp up your community engagement and customer service efforts.
I thank you for your time and consideration on this matter.
Later that day, County Executive Marc Molinaro Issued the following statement:
"Central Hudson‘s roll out of a new billing system and failure to communicate effectively with our residents in anticipation of increased energy costs is flawed and disturbing.
Gas prices globally have spiked, and nationally we are experiencing an unbearable rate of inflation. Locally, New York State’s decision to close Indian Point shifted the region from a reliance on steady, stable and affordable energy to an unstable commodity. Bitter cold temperatures have further exacerbated the situation by increasing demand.
Some of what we’re experiencing can be attributed to bad decisions and bad policy in Albany and Washington, but Central Hudson bears much responsibility here. They knew a rate increase was imminent. They have absolute control over their operations and communications. It is clear based on the hundreds of individuals who have communicated with my office that Central Hudson’s outreach efforts have failed.
The shocking utility bills our residents are receiving adds insult to the injury from last year‘s flawed rollout of their new billing system. Central Hudson has an obligation to keep our community informed about the cost of the energy they deliver.
Too many families living paycheck to paycheck cannot bear the weight of inflation. Add to that a confusing and shocking utility bill increase and we have a recipe for disaster.
Central Hudson must do better. They can do better. It’s time they provide assistance and relief to our residents.
Soon after, Senator Serino posted, "Like many officials, my office has been inundated with calls and emails from distraught neighbors who are seeing drastic spikes in their utility prices. With costs rising on basic necessities across the board and New York facing a current budget surplus, the state must take immediate action to provide relief for residents. That’s why I’m urging Governor Hochul to suspend state taxes and fees and for the Public Service Commission to launch an investigation into the rate increases.
New Yorkers are hurting. The state cannot sit idly by or point fingers. Now is the time to
take real action to ease the burden on hardworking New Yorkers."