Congressman Pat Ryan calls for Central Hudson president to resign
Congressman Pat Ryan (C-Span)
Despise the Hudson Valley providers at your peril.
The simmering discontent has reached a boiling point after a NYS Public Service Commission report cataloging thousands of billing errors. Politicians at the national, state and local levels are demanding the boss from Charles Freni, the embattled CEO of Hudson Electric and Gas.
Congressman Pat Ryan encouraged Freni to resign in a speech Wednesday, February 1, and aimed his rhetorical cannon fire at the floor of the United States House of Representatives. “In response to this devastating report,” Ryan said, “Central Hudson redoubled their distraction, denial and deception. Instead of taking responsibility for their mistakes, they claimed that no customer was overcharged and that no one lost money.”
The Congressman, who was Ulster County executive director at the time of the utility’s system changeover, filed the formal complaint that sparked the investigation into irregularities in Central Hudson’s services.
“Because of these mistakes and Central Hudson’s continued unwillingness to take responsibility… today I call on Central Hudson’s CEO, Mr. Charles Freni, to do the right thing and resign. We need a new leader to improve service, finally fix these systemic issues, and begin the critical work of rebuilding trust. The people of the Hudson Valley deserve it.”
Central Hudson provides power and gas transmission and distribution services in a 2,600 square mile service area. It serves approximately 300,000 electric and 80,000 gas customers in eight counties in the Mid-Hudson region.
Canadian holding company Fortis, which reported 2021 sales of $9.4 billion, bought Central Hudson in 2012.
“Mr. Speaker, I rise today to give a voice to my constituents who have been ripped off and ripped off by our utility, Central Hudson,” Ryan said.
While Freni had no immediate comment, a statement from Central Hudson following the berating of its CEO sought to reassure his customers and their elected constituents.
“Central Hudson is working to ensure customers who have received invoices that require an adjustment are complete,” wrote Joe Jenkins, associate director of media relations. “Central Hudson continues to apologize for the unfortunate impact the implementation of the new system has had on our customers and key stakeholders. Our top priority has been and will continue to be to resolve issues with the system and we continue to make progress.”
Are the excuses enough? At least for the politicians, the blood is the water.
State Senator Michelle Hinchey, who along with Ryan and Rep. Kevin Cahill organized a forum in 2021 to receive constituent complaints in preparation for Ryan’s formal complaint to the state PSC, claimed the issues persist a year later.
“In the past six weeks, my office has received 70 new cases from constituents struggling with Central Hudson’s billing errors,” Hinchey says, “disproving the company’s claim that its billing system has been largely resolved. We need taxpayers to get healthy. We need to codify my bill to ban estimated billing once and for all.”
Newly elected assembly member Sarahana Shrestha also released a statement joining Ryan’s call for the CEO to resign. “Many of us fought against Central Hudson’s disregard for tariff payers long before billing errors arose,” Shrestha said, “that would move us away from fossil fuels and democratize our energy system to work for the people.”
Freni, who has served as CEO since September 15, 2018, currently serves on the boards of Newfoundland Power, the main power utility in the island portions of Newfoundland and Labrador, and on the New York State Business Council.