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Tensions High At Assembly Hearing Over Con Ed Rate Hike

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Tension was high Wednesday between Con Edison and Queens politicians at a State Assembly hearing over a proposed rate hike — the largest increase Con Ed has ever proposed. NY1’s Michael Scotto filed the following report.

Con Edison says a proposed rate hike would jack up New Yorkers utility bill by 17 percent, but one angry Queens politician argues the increase is more like 36 percent.

No matter what the figure, both sides acknowledge the rate hike is the largest Con Ed has ever put forward.

“They're increasing their rates by 36 percent,” said Assemblyman Michael Gianaris. “That's the benefit you're getting. And, what they are doing is they're disguising the benefit that's going to accrue to them.”

What's the reason for the two numbers? Well, an electric bill factors in delivery, which Con Ed controls, and supply, which is out of the utility’s hands.

When looked at separately, the delivery portion would, under the proposal, increase by 36 percent. When it's combined with supply, the total increase would be more like 17 percent, provided the cost of supplying electricity did not increase.

As it stands now, a $70 bill would grow to $82, a 17 percent increase.

Con Ed says that's all customers really need to know.

“Everyone who asks when we make a rate proposal asks, what's the bottom line? What's the impact on my bill?” said Con Ed spokesman Michael Clendenin. “That's what people want to know. That's what we've been telling people.”

Con Ed came before a State Assembly committee to explain the rate hike. Officials say that an investment into the system must be made to support large city projects, such as Atlantic Yards, the development of the West Side Railyards, and the new Yankee and Mets Stadiums.

They say the rate hike would cover improvements to handle energy needs, some of which have already been made, but have not been fully paid for by customers.

“It's like being behind on your bills and finally starting to pay them,” said Con Ed Chief Financial Officer Robert Hoglund.

That argument angered Assemblyman Gianaris — who's still fuming over last summer's blackout.

“To sit here and say that what you're asking for is past due bills that the customer owed you and didn't pay over the past three years, given what you have put the city through, is astounding,” said the assemblyman.

Gianaris said he feared higher rates would also benefit Con Ed's shareholders through higher dividends.

In the end, the Assembly will have no role in the rate hike. The decision will be left to the state's Public Service Commission, which over the next 11 months will hold hearings, before deciding whether the increases will go into effect.

-Michael Scotto
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