By Nathan Duke
Western Queens elected officials lambasted the state Public Service Commission’s decision last week to approve a $420 million rate increase over a period of three years.
The PSC voted March 25 in favor of a new three-year rate hike for Con Edison that would increase customer bills by an average 4 percent each year.
State Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said he thought it was “ironic” the PSC released news of the rate increase’s approval on the same day it announced the agency would consider penalizing the utility for an April 2009 explosion that killed Ghanwatti Boodram, 40, a Floral Park mother of three.
“It’s ironic that the PSC simultaneously recognizes that Con Ed’s performance deserves a penalty and agrees to rate hikes without structural changes to the utility.”
In a statement, Con Ed defended the new rates.
“The new three-year electric delivery rate plan provides long-term rate certainty for customers and provides funding for Con Edison to continue investments needed to maintain system readiness and operating reliability,” the utility said.
The rate increase plan boosts Con Ed’s revenues by $540.8 million beginning April 1 and then provides the utility with an additional $306.5 million April 1, 2011, and $280.2 million on that same day in 2012.
PSC Chairman Garry Brown said the new rates would provide “austerity measures” and “other provisions to reduce economic burdens on hard-pressed customers.”
“We are always concerned about the impact of any rate increase on ratepayers, especially in these extraordinarily difficult economic times,” Brown said.
Elected officials from western Queens have long criticized the utility following its performance during the 10-day blackout of 2006 in Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside and Woodside. The outage left hundreds of thousands of people without power and cost millions of dollars to businesses.
Gianaris blasted the PSC for continuing to approve Con Ed’s proposed rate hikes.
“The beat goes on,” he said. “This is typical behavior for both Con Ed and the PSC. Without any substantial and desperately needed reforms, they keep granting rate hikes for an unaccountable monopoly with a history of service failures.”
City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) said the city already pays the highest rates in the nation.
“As our state falls further into disarray, Con Edison glides through the approval process for increased rates,” he said. “This is what happens when an arrogant monopoly is overseen by Albany.”
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.