Queens elected officials sign letter to the governor urging her to stop National Grid rate hikes

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Queens elected officials joined others to call on Gov. Kathy Hochul to review the recent decision by the Public Service Commission (PSC), which approved a raise in monthly gas bills for 1.9 million downstate National Grid customers. 

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Senator Joseph Addabbo, Assembly members Zohran Mamdani and Jessica González-Rojas and others all signed a powerful letter, which urged Hochul to conduct a review into the PSC-approved rate hike. The lawmakers claim that this rate hike will force customers to pay for the North Brooklyn Pipeline and other new fracked gas projects being planned or proposed in Staten Island, Brooklyn, southeast Queens and Long Island. 

Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo appointed the members of PSC that are still making decisions today. In the past, Cuomo received backlash after being accused of filling PSC seats with his allies who would rarely say no to his energy policies.  

The PSC made the decision on Aug. 12, in the final weeks of the Cuomo administration. Cuomo’s Department of Public Service argued that the rate hike, which increase gas sales, does not violate the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). 

The state Legislature passed CLCPA in 2019, to mitigate the effects of climate change by cutting greenhouse gas emissions, relying on renewable sources of energy and creating green jobs.

Despite no greenhouse gas emissions assessments, PSC went ahead to approve the rate hike claiming it does comply with CLCPA. 

Lawmakers said they’re disturbed that they and other community groups have to be the ones to hold National Grid accountable.

Assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas said the state needs a concrete plan to phase out fossil fuels, especially after the damage left behind by Tropical Storm Ida. 

“Incremental changes to reducing our dependence on gas are not what advocates worked hard to accomplish through the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act,” González-Rojas said. 

The assemblywoman also said Hochul is reviewing their letter now and hopes the governor reverses the rate hike. 

“New Yorkers have suffered the most difficult conditions these last two years and they need more relief, not more expenses,” González-Rojas said.

The letter also recognized Hochul for her quick action after Hurricane Ida and commended her for clearly saying climate change was the cause.

“Dozens of New Yorkers unnecessarily lost their lives recently because for decades the fossil fuel industry perpetuated climate denial and the industry continues to delay the transition off fossil fuels,” the letter stated. “Too many members of our communities have lost their lives due to the health impacts of fossil fuel pollution yet National Grid is still greenwashing fracked gas to this day.

“The PSC order continues a legacy of environmental racism and climate denial,” the letter reads. “What further cataclysm needs to take place before our state agencies will ensure the utilities comply with the law? Who will hold our state agencies accountable if not, you, the governor?”

National Grid responded to the criticism and said the rate hike will allow them to invest in programs that will accelerate decarbonization and the transition to a cleaner energy future.

“The resulting settlement benefits are substantial: rates frozen for one year, new programs to support vulnerable customers – including customers experiencing financial hardships for the first time because of COVID, an unprecedented set of commitments to advance the state’s climate goals and reduce emissions,” National Grid’s statement said. “We are pleased to have worked with our key stakeholders, including the New York State Department of Public Service to reach an agreement that supports our customers and is consistent with the requirements of the CLCPA.”