NY groups demand Gov. Hochul stop utility rate hike

Edwin J. Viera

AARP New York is calling on Gov. Kathy Hochul to reject a proposed utility rate hike.

New York State Electric and Gas, and Rochester Gas and Electric are proposing a 62% electric delivery rate increase for customers. Both utilities said the increase would be used to help pay for climate change initiatives. Experts estimate the increase would force customers to pay $900 over the duration of the proposed increase.

Bill Ferris, legislative representative for AARP New York, said it could harm already flailing ratepayers.

“There are close to over 130,000 people in the NYSEG area who are 60 days behind on their bill,” Ferris pointed out. “If you look at the same data, there’s over 70,000 people in the NYSEG area who received a final termination notice, and 1,500 people were terminated this year in the month of August.”

He added upstate ratepayers are already facing stark poverty rates. The New York State Comptroller finds in Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse, one in four people was living in poverty in 2021. The state’s Public Service Commission will vote on whether to approve the rate increase today.

Outside the governor’s intervention, Ferris noted a piece of legislation could help ratepayers afford their utility bills. He described how the bill’s implementation of data matching can aid ratepayers.

“If someone is on this Energy Affordability Program, and they’re on the HEAP program — which is a program helping people pay for those bills — use the data between those programs and enhance and increase the roles of people to get them more of a benefit, of a low-income benefit,” Ferris outlined.

Although the bill passed both chambers of the New York State Legislature, it has yet to be signed by Gov. Hochul. Recently, separate legislation was approved to protect consumers from surprise energy price increases. The measure requires energy service companies to get customers’ consent before any material prices increase.

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