The Ulster County Executive, State Senator and Assemblymember call upon the Public Service Commission (PSC) to take actions to protect customers of Hudson Valley Water Company
Three officials are providing the PSC with over 20 comments from a June 23rd public hearing on Hudson Valley Water Company’s quality and customer service
KINGSTON, N.Y. - Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan, State Senator Michelle Hinchey and Assemblymember Kevin Cahill announced today that they sent a joint letter to Rory Christian, Chair of the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC), calling for immediate actions to protect customers of the Hudson Valley Water Company. Among their requests, that the PSC deny the rate increase request submitted by the Hudson Valley Water Company on June 21st, 2022, and require compliance with PSC recommendations that have yet to be fulfilled from a 2020 investigation. The request proposed by County Executive Ryan, Senator Hinchey and Assemblymember Cahill were coordinated with the Public Utility Law Project (PULP) and based on conversations with constituents.
Additionally, the three officials are delivering over 20 new public comments from Hudson Valley Water Company customers about the company’s quality of water and customer service, which was recorded during a June 23rd, 2022, public hearing at the Woodstock Elementary School. Over 50 people attended the public hearing, and testimony was collected from customers attesting to buying bottled water for drinking because of the water quality provided by the company, unreachable customer support during frequent service outages, customers being threatened with water shut off, high minimum fees for minimum service above what is historically or regularly used, customers who pay to have their water tested, treated and other services, and customers who have to pay for repairs after the company digs up water lines. The public hearing was the outcome of continuing concerns and perceived discrepancies in compliance with DPS recommendations.
“As Ulster County Executive, I will use my office to advocate on behalf of residents and hold utility companies accountable for their business practices,” Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan said. “Ulster County residents have a right to clean drinking water and responsive customer service, and we cannot allow Hudson Valley Water Company to get paid more while delaying on delivering essential needs.”
“We stand in opposition to this rate increase for Hudson Valley Water Company, which, over the course of several decades, has made no effort to provide safe and reliable water service to our community members,” said Senator Michelle Hinchey. “No customer should bear the financial burden of fixing Hudson Valley Water Company’s self-inflicted service failures. As a State, we have enshrined the right to clean water in our Constitution. It is now incumbent upon us as stewards of that document to ensure that all New Yorkers have clean drinking water and to hold bad actors like Mr. Fuller accountable for his negligence and dereliction of responsibility.”
"Testimony from ratepayers given at the June 23rd public hearing made it clear that Hudson Valley Water Company has not made the significant investment in improved service necessary to justify an increase in rates, despite the October 2020 order from the Public Service Commission to do just that. In addition to calling for a rejection of this burdensome hike, my office along with County Executive Ryan's, Senator Hinchey's and the Public Utility Law Project will continue to work with PSC to ensure Hudson Valley Water Company is held accountable," said Assemblymember Kevin A. Cahill (D-Ulster, Dutchess).
“At last month’s public hearing, the public shared firsthand how HVWC is continually failing at its duty to offer reliable drinking water to its customers at just and reasonable rates, despite a 2020 order from the Public Service Commission (PSC) to do better. And as Ulster County’s residents struggle with rising energy supply rates and the inflation of groceries, housing, child care costs, and much more, it’s egregious that HVWC wants to raise rates by 20% for substandard service,” said Laurie Wheelock, Deputy Executive Director of the Public Utility Law Project of New York. “We join County Executive Ryan, Senator Hinchey, and Assemblymember Cahill in urging the PSC to look into the business practices of HVWC and specifically review the Company’s financial records to determine exactly how they’ve been using rate payer money. Ultimately, we urge the PSC to deny their double-digit rate increase request and require HVWC to come into compliance with customer service, accurate billing, quality repairs to the system, and more.”
In 2019, West Hurley reached out to Assemblymember Cahill’s office, prompting a DPS investigation which concluded in October 2020. The investigation produced a staff report including 49 recommendations, which were further ordered by the Commissioner.
Having participated in the PSC public hearing on the matter, Senator Hinchey, in her first term, authored several pieces of legislation to place stricter oversight on small private water companies, including The Small Water Utility Transparency Act, which would increase the fine structure on a water company found in violation of its duties and provide the Public Service Commission, Department of Environmental Conservation, and NYS Comptroller’s Office with greater auditing authority to ensure that companies are meeting the health, safety and affordability needs of customers.
Earlier this year, Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan established the Municipal Sewer and Water Grant, making $5 million in ARPA funding available to publicly owned sewer and water systems in Ulster County for vitally needed infrastructure melioration and construction.