Queens lawmakers call for additional public hearing on Con Ed rate hike proposal

Con Edison
Queens lawmakers want the public to have more say on proposed rate hikes by Con Edison this winter. (QNS/File)

With the days growing shorter and temperatures slowly dropping, Queens residents have increased anxiety over proposed higher utility rates this winter. State Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblyman Zohran Mamdani are calling on the state’s Public Service Commission (PSC) to hold an additional public hearing before finalizing their decision on the proposed Con Edison rate hikes this winter.

“Ratepayers are going to see their supply charges go up this winter, hitting them in the wallets in a dramatic way,” Gianaris said. “New York state must step in and let consumers have their say before allowing Con Ed to increase rates yet again.”

In a letter sent to Gov. Kathy Hochul and the PSC on Sept. 26, and signed by more than 50 state lawmakers, they point out that the last public hearing on the rate case took place in March 2022, well before Con Ed announced they would likely be passing on substantial increases in supply charges to consumers this winter. The officials note that Con Edison’s proposed rate hike this winter would raise the average customer’s overall electric bill by 11.2% and gas bill by 18.2%.

“An additional $60 per month in Con Ed charges is something my constituents simply cannot afford. Yet, when I canvass our neighbors about this rate case, I find that far too few of them have even heard of it. New Yorkers deserve to have a place to testify how Con Ed’s corporate greed and continued funding of fossil fuel infrastructure could push them out of the neighborhoods they call home,” Mamdani said. “We call on Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Public Service Commission to grant us that.”

The signees from Queens include state Senators Jessica Ramos, John Liu, Toby Ann Stavisky, Andrew Hevesi and Assembly members Catalina Cruz, Nily Rozic, Brian Barnwell, Clyde Vanel, Khaleel Anderson, David Weprin and Jessica González-Rojas.

“While Con Edison is able to pay attorneys and lobbyists to fight for their interests, our constituents — working New Yorkers — have not been given an adequate seat at the table,” the letter concludes. “We call on you to hold a public hearing immediately to give our constituents the chance to weigh in on a decision that will impact their lives deeply.”

PSC spokesman James Denn said the commission is reviewing the request.

“Public participation is a hallmark in all rate cases that come before the PSC,” he said in a statement. “We have held six hearings this far and we are actively considering the request to hold an additional hearing.”

Con Edison claims the numbers presented in the letter are misleading, especially the $20.90 figure quoted for electricity is for a residential customer who uses 600-kilowatt hours (kWh) per month. Con Ed maintains that a typical NYC residential customer uses much less — about 280 kWh.

Con Edison said the rate hike is needed in order to fund a $1.2 billion upgrade to its electric delivery system and a $500 million upgrade to its gas system plus investing additional funds in renewable energy that are necessary to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.

“Our rate requests would fund clean energy investments in support of New York state’s climate goals, infrastructure upgrades that will help keep customers in service during severe weather, and programs for low-income customers,” a Con Ed spokesman said. “We propose continuing unprecedented investments in energy efficiency, renewables, electric vehicles and clean heat. The clean energy investments would prevent the emission of approximately 2.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to taking more than 500,000 cars off the road for a year. Due to our belief in a clean energy future, the company’s gas proposal focuses on keeping the system safe, not expanding it.”