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NYS Legislation gives ratepayers voice in utility increases

Desks and leather chairs are organized in the semi-circles inside the New York State Senate chamber.
WAER file photo
Desks and leather chairs sit empty inside the New York State Senate chamber.

A bill passed by the New York State Legislature would provide ratepayers with a voice in utility rate increases.

The utility intervenor bill would provide for funding to allow individuals or not-for-profit groups to have a seat at the table when utility companies go before the state's Public Service Commission for a rate increase.

High inflation and rising costs have been prompting rate increases across the U.S.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, energy prices in October were up 17.6% from the previous year.

Bill Ferris, legislative representative for AARP New York, said increasing rates adds to an ongoing cycle of owed payments by ratepayers.

"The end result of ever-increasing energy rates in New York is people, when they can't pay their bill, are given the opportunities to try and make up what they owe," said Ferris. "But the arrears just pile up, and here in New York, we had and continue to have an arrears crisis where people are terminated from their utility services."

Much of the opposition to the bill has come from utility companies, particularly about the way the bill is written.

Analysis by AARP New York found ratepayers were billed almost $19 million for utility company's representation in these negotiations.

Although the bill has been passed by the Legislature, it's still awaiting the governor's signature.

Currently, people can call the Public Service Commission during rate increases - but Ferris said he feels this provides a more effective way to participate, allowing ratepayers to counter rate increases made by utility companies.

He said he doesn't want high rate hikes being approved without further examination.

"We believe that this legislation becomes law," said Ferris. "Residential ratepayers should have solid representation at the table and hopefully will push down residential rates in the state of New York."

With winter approaching, people will be consuming more energy to heat their homes. A report from the National Energy Assistance Directors Association finds families will be paying 17.2% more to heat their homes this winter.

Since rates have been on the rise, Ferris said he hopes people have an even playing field for voicing concerns about rate hikes.

This story comes from New York News Connection. AARP New York contributes to NY News Connection's fund for reporting on civil rights, community issues and volunteering, health issues and senior issues.