Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney announced Friday he has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to return to Hudson Valley electricity customers the increases they’ve paid on their bills since a controversial new “capacity zone” took effect in May.
“A refund is necessary for these arbitrary capacity charges,” the Cold Spring Democrat wrote in a Sept. 9 letter to the FEC’s acting chairwoman, Cheryl LaFleur, which he released Friday. “Hudson Valley residents deserve repayment for these excessive charges caused by FERC’s implementation of the new capacity zone — especially as FERC has the authority to ensure customers receive refunds back to the effective date for ‘unjust and unreasonable’ rates.”
“With freezing temperatures soon coming to the Hudson Valley,” the letter added, “I firmly believe our constituents should not have to pay a penny more than they need to during these harsh winter months.”
Both Maloney and Rep. Chris Gibson, the Republican representing the neighboring 19th Congressional District, have been crusading to undo the unpopular capacity zone, which was put in place to try to lure more power plants to the Hudson Valley but has had the immediate effect of hiking residential power bills by 5 to 6 percent. They succeeded in attaching to a House spending bill in July a provision that would deny FERC funding to implement the new zone.
The capacity zone also has emerged as an unlikely campaign issue in the rematch race between Maloney and former Rep. Nan Hayworth, the Republican he unseated in 2012. The two candidates have been trading accusations about which of them could have done more to protest the zone or prevent it from coming into existence in the first place. Each blames the other for “inaction.”
Hayworth’s campaign declared last week that Maloney “had well over one year to respond to the outcry from utility providers in the region,” noting that Central Hudson Gas & Electric protested in May 2013 that the zone New York proposed in response to a FERC mandate could hike prices by “as much as 475 percent.”
Maloney’s campaign shot back two days later with automated phone calls and a web ad alerting residents that FERC accepted the proposal for a Hudson Valley zone in September 2011, while his predecessor was in office — “without any action from Hayworth.”
“Tea Party Congresswoman Nan Hayworth spent her time in Washington on partisan fights and gridlock instead of fixing these reckless energy hikes,” Maloney spokeswoman Stephanie Formas said in a press release.
A lawsuit challenging the capacity zone is pending in a federal appeals court.