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Prattsburgh Town Councilman Steven Kula
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6/10/2008
Schumer heightens pressure to approve Iberdrola deal
$4.5 billion bid for Energy East Corp. has again brought pressure on state regulators from Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who suggested Monday the regulators are being "stone-headed."

The bid by Iberdrola SA of Spain for the company that owns Rochester Gas and Electric and New York State Electric and Gas is under review by the Department of Public Service.

The department's administrative law judge, Rafael Epstein, is working on an advisory opinion for the department's five-member Public Service Commission, which will vote on the proposed sale.

But Schumer isn't waiting for Epstein's opinion. The state's senior senator released a letter he sent to the Department of Public Service on Monday, asking the agency to drop its demand that Iberdrola sell its wind power assets in New York as a condition of getting approval for the Energy East deal.

"This past week, Iberdrola announced that they had a target investment of $2 billion in renewable energy projects in New York state, on top of the $100 million they have already committed to such facilities," Schumer wrote. To block those investments, he said, would be "nonsensical."

The department staff has been pressing Iberdrola for rate concessions and has questioned the company's ownership of wind-powered generators, citing a 1996 state guideline that frowns on ownership of both centers of distribution and generation.

Schumer took the position that the wind turbines shouldn't be viewed as competitive electricity generation, but rather as a means for the state to move toward achieving its renewable energy goals.

"The notion that the PSC might sacrifice $2 billion of new, job-creating wind-power investment in upstate New York at the altar of a stubborn and illogical adherence to poorly applied bureaucratic policy is stone-headed," Schumer said in a statement, repeating a characterization he used April 30 in referring to the state's stance.

A decision from Epstein is coming soon, with no set date, said PSC spokesman James Denn.

JFSTINSO@DemocratandChronicle.com
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