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CNYers Can Register Their Comments Monday on National Grid's Major Rate Hike Proposal

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www9.nationalgridus.com
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Central New  Yorkers have chance to weigh in Monday on a significant rate hike being proposed by National Grid.  If the utility’s plan is approved as is, typical gas and electric customers could be on the hook for an extra $18 a month.  National Grid says it wants to raise $330 million to modernize its electric distribution system,  expand its gas infrastructure, and enhance low income assistance programs.  The NY Public Service Commission has been holding a series of public hearings in National Grid’s service territory, and spokesperson Jim Denn says the comments weigh heavily into their consideration.

"For the most part, many of the consumers are concerned about the size of the increase.  But there are also some consumers who recognize that the utility needs to make investments to both modernize their system and make certain improvements to the electric transmission and and distribution systems."

Denn says they’re trying to balance infrastructure investment and rate hikes. 

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"There have been instances where we've granted a zero increase for a rate request.  There are also instances where we've granted closer to what  the utility has asked.  Each rate case is reviewed on a case by case basis with a careful eye toward ensuring that whatever the commission decides is in best interest of all parties."

Denn says there are more than 50 parties involved, including advocacy organizations like the Alliance for a Green Economy.  Program director Jessica Azulay is worried many Syracuse-area customers already struggling to pay their bills can’t afford the proposed rate hike…even if they do qualify for the energy affordability programs that would be expanded by National Grid.

"The rate increase the company is requesting is so high that, for a lot of customers, it's going to cancel out that increase in discounts.  If the rates are going to go up, we need more progressive rates and make sure low income people can still afford their bills."

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Credit allianceforagreeneconomy.org

Azulay says National Grid also needs to be challenged around its plan to expand gas infrastructure.  She says that’s going in the wrong direction if the state wants to meet its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030. 

"That includes the fossil fuels that we use to heat our homes and heat our water.  There are fossil-free alternatives for heating through geothermal  and cold climate air source heat pumps.  If we're going to reach our climate goals, we need to be seeing mass conversion from gas and oil furnaces to these renewable heating technologies."

The public service commission expects to make a decision on National Grid’s proposal in March.  Any rate hikes would take effect April first.

Monday's public hearings take place at Nottingham High School 3100 E. Genesee St.  Information sessions will be held at 2:00 and 6:00 p.m.  Public statement hearings at 3:00 and 7:00 p.m.  Comments can also be made on line at dps.ny.gov. and use these case numbers (one is for the electric proposal and the other is gas) 17-E-0238 and 17-G-0239.