Monday, July 23, 2018

Court Blocks NYPSC Order Barring ESCO Contracts

By Michael Kuser

A New York appellate judge on Wednesday blocked the Public Service Commission from limiting energy service companies’ (ESCOs) ability to contract with low-income people in the state.

The temporary restraining order from Justice Christine Clark, of the Appellate Division’s Third Judicial Department, continues the legal see-sawing on the commission’s efforts to protect poor New Yorkers from paying excessive rates for electricity.

The restraining order will remain in effect pending the court’s ruling on a motion to stay a July 5 state Supreme Court order. Clark ordered the PSC to appear at a show cause hearing on Aug. 23. (New York’s Supreme Court is the trial-level court in the state, with the Appellate Division hearing appeals of its decisions. The state’s highest court is the Court of Appeals.)

Robert Abrams Building for Law and Justice, home of the New York Appellate Division Third Judicial Department | New York Supreme Court

Craig Goodman, president of the National Energy Marketers Association, said that Wednesday’s ruling paved “the way for appellate review of the PSC’s efforts before they are implemented. We look forward to participating in the process to gather real data and analysis that can drive policy to achieve New York’s energy goals as opposed to restricting consumer choice based on unsupported claims and faulty numbers.”

“We look forward to the opportunity to be heard by the Appellate Division justices as New York continues to protect consumers and ratepayers from paying too much for their electric and gas service,” PSC spokesman James Denn responded in a statement.

NYPSC energy service companies ESCOs

PSC Chair John B. Rhodes | © RTO Insider

On June 30, Supreme Court Justice Henry Zwack ruled that the PSC has “the very broadest of powers” to regulate ESCOs and utility rates, especially when seeking to prevent the overcharging of low-income customers, dismissing a case filed against the commission by NEMA and three ESCOs, as well as a similar suit by the Retail Energy Supply Association. (See Court Backs NYPSC on Regulating Retail Sales.)

The PSC on Aug. 2 had rebuffed a trade group seeking to head off upcoming evidentiary hearings related to the commission’s ongoing investigation of ESCOs. (See NYPSC Pushes Ahead with ESCO Investigation.)