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Council blasts Con Ed over proposed rate hikes

City Councilmembers came out firing at Con Ed for asking the state Public Service Commission (PSC) to approve a 17 percent rate hike raising costs by $1.2 billion next year.
“I think it’s an outrage and an insult,” said City Councilmember Eric Gioia. “We already pay some of the highest rates in the country and the executives are grossly overpaid, some in the tens of millions of dollars.”
Gioia was one of many councilmembers who recently held a press conference outside of Con Ed’s offices on 14th Street in Manhattan calling on the PSC to deny any rate increases until the utility giant meets a set of better business standards including improved service, maintenance investment and public accountability amongst others.
“Con Ed seems to think that we should pay more for less, and it’s simply wrong, and the PSC should be embarrassed if they don’t do anything else,” said Gioia, who has been a frequent critic of Con Ed since the July 2006 blackout knocked out power for up to 10 days to more than 100,000 western Queens residents.
Recently, the PSC recommended that Con Ed receive about half of the 17 percent increase, but a PSC spokesperson said that the commission is still in the early stages of the process, which will include public testimony, and the entire commission would not reach a decision until the end of the first quarter of 2008.
Con Ed spokesperson Alfonso Quiroz said that the utility company asked for the rate increase so the company could enhance and expand its electric delivery system. He also noted that the area the company serves has seen significant growth in population, housing stock and commercial development.
“There’s no guarantee that Con Ed will appropriately use this money, and their credibility is zilch,” Gioia said.
Assemblymember Michael Gianaris, who also represents areas of western Queens affected by last year’s blackout, also called on the PSC to deny any rate increases to Con Ed.
“We always pay the highest rates in the nation and have serious service problems,” Gianaris said. “Unless Con Edison changes, approving the largest rate hike in history would be like throwing money in the garbage because we don’t know that they are spending the money correctly.”
Meanwhile, City Councilmember Leroy Comrie, who is the Chair of the Council’s Consumer Affairs Committee, is not buying this argument and pointed to the large profit margins that the company consistently delivers to its shareholders.
“The company needs to make a better case for this rate increase, especially since this is an investment the company has deferred for years, neglecting those who rely on its services, in order to reward shareholders,” Comrie said.

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