Queens lawmakers and advocates urge state regulators to reject Con Edison’s proposed rate hikes

Photo by Erik McGregor

A growing number of elected officials and advocates from Queens and the city are calling on the state’s Public Service Commission (PSC) to reject Con Edison’s proposed rate hike, which will raise electricity rates over the next three years by a compounded 16 percent and gas rates 25 percent for cooking customers and 34 percent for heating customers.

The rate hike, which the PSC is expected to vote on at its January meeting, doesn’t sit well with the chairman of the City Council’s Committee on Environmental Protection, a frequent critic of Con Edison.

“Whether it was the Astoria Borealis or the complete failure during this summer’s heat wave, Con Edison has clearly demonstrated it’s not fit for the job of providing New Yorkers reliable power,” City Councilman Costa Constantinides said. “On top of those shortcomings, this for-profit utility wants nearly $700 million in rate hikes off the backs of hard-working people already struggling to pay the bills, all so they can marryus to ore fossil fuel infrastructure for generations to come. I hope the PSC hears the voice of New Yorkers who are tired of this disservice and instead focuses on ways in which we can transition to clean renewable energy.”

The “Astoria Borealis” occurred last December when the blue aura from an Astoria transformer explosion could be seen for miles. (Photo via Twitter/@Moussa1915)

Advocates argue the rate hike invests hundreds of millions of ratepayer dollars in fracked gas infrastructure each year, which advocates say will soon become stranded assets as city and state climate laws are implemented.

“Con Ed’s plan to invest almost a billion ratepayer dollars a year in fracked gas infrastructure fails the climate test,” said Lee Zieche with Sane Energy Project, a member of Renewable Heat Now Campaign. “And it’s shameful New York City and the New York Department of Public Services have signed off on this plan that will invest our hard earned money in stranded fossil fuel assets. If the PSC is really acting in the public interest they will reject this plan.”

City Councilman Eric Ulrich submitted written testimony in opposition to the proposed rate hike arguing that they are far above the rate of inflation and would make it difficult for seniors and individuals living on a fixed income to cover the cost of utilities.

“Con Edison is one of the wealthiest energy companies in the United States, with more than $10 billion in annual revenue, and over $48 billion in assets,” Ulrich said. “There is no rhyme or reason behind the company’s proposed hikes other than to extract more money from hardworking New Yorkers.

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said Con Edison has demonstrated an inability to consistently power the city at times putting New Yorkers in danger by leaving them in the dark during all-too-frequent blackouts.

“Yet now, Con Edison is seeking to sharply increase the financial burden placed on the people who are depending on their services for safety and quality of life,” Williams said. “The company cannot ask for a rate hike and give neither adequate electricity nor adequate answers, and I strongly oppose the proposed increase.”

Con Edison offered a defense of its proposed rate hikes in a statement.

“We believe that the joint agreement is essential in helping New York State achieve its clean energy goals,” the statement says. “In addition to investing $3 billion each year to make the grid safer and more reliable, the plan helps encourage alternatives to fossil fuels with incentives and rebates for geothermal heat pumps, appliances, and electric vehicle chargers. It provides $700 million over the next three years for energy efficiency programs that are some of the most effective ways for customers to reduce bills.”

More from Around New York