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Opposition Building to Gas Rate Hike

More than half of Long Islanders over age 50 have said they're worried about being able to pay their utility bills. (Garry Knight/Flickr)
More than half of Long Islanders over age 50 have said they're worried about being able to pay their utility bills. (Garry Knight/Flickr)
October 4, 2016

ALBANY, N.Y. – Long Island residents soon could see a big bump up in their natural gas bills, but consumer advocates say that will strain tight budgets for older and low-income New Yorkers. The Public Service Commission is considering a request from National Grid for a 24 percent hike in gas delivery rates on Long Island over three years.

But according to Bill Ferris, state legislative representative for AARP New York, a survey of Gen Xers and Baby Boomers on the island found they're already stretched thin.

"As high as 55 percent of people living on Long Island are concerned about paying their utility bill," he explained. "And now, they're actually raising the rates more, and we don't think that's a good idea."

The Public Service Commission accepts comments on the rate hike proposal through Nov. 18.

National Grid estimates the increase would cost the average customer almost $200 a year more. Long Island already has some of the highest utility rates in the country, and Ferris said a big increase would hit people on fixed incomes the hardest.

"We don't think that's acceptable," he added. "We think the Public Service Commission and National Grid can do a better job on rate design, and lower these rates for people on Long Island."

Ferris said more than 5,000 AARP members have written or called the Public Service Commission opposing the plan.

Con Ed, which supplies electricity to New York City and Westchester County, wants to raise its rates as well. Ferris thinks the PSC is doing a good job looking over the raw data on these requests, but needs to pay more attention to the impact on consumers.

"We think that they have to do more work to make these rate designs more affordable to people, especially the low-income people," Ferris explained.

The Public Service Commission is expected to release its final decision on the National Grid rate-increase request in December.

The AARP's letter to the New York State Public Service is here.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY