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Advocacy Groups Worry That National Grid's Proposed Rate Hike Could Hurt Consumers, Environment

Peter Dutton
Wikimedia Commons

Central New Yorkers struggling to pay rent and other expenses might also be facing higher utility bills in the future. National Grid is proposing a 4% increase in its electricity delivery rates and a 6% jump in gas delivery to take effect next summer. Community organizations across New York are joining forces to inform the public of the plan and the potential impact on households and the environment.

Executive Director of the Alliance for a Green Economy Jessica Azulay calls the proposal egregious during a health and economic crisis.

“People are struggling to put food on their table and keep their lights on and stay in their houses. We’re seeing utility debt rise, which means more people already are unable to pay their utility bills,” she said.

National Grid wants to use the revenue to quote “modernize its gas and electric infrastructure,” which Azulay says amounts to expanding its methane gas pipelines. She believes this will slow the state’s progress toward a goal of decreasing fossil fuel emissions by 40% by 2030.

“We can’t have utilities taking tens of millions of dollars from customers and putting it into infrastructure that’s taking us in the wrong direction. We can’t afford that and we also can’t handle that in terms of the climate crisis.”

She says instead, utilities should pursue alternatives to natural gas such as geothermal heating and cooling. The Public Service Commission can adopt or reject all or parts of National Grid’s plan, or modify it.  Azulay says public feedback can’t be underestimated.

“In past cases when people have come to the public hearings and have spoken up about their economic circumstances and the impact of escalating bills on their lives as well as how they want the utility to be addressing climate change, we have seen that have an impact on cases in the past, with an outcome of a lower rate hike.”

The 4% electricity and 6% gas hikes would mean $3.53 and $4.53 extra, respectively, per month on average. The plan was originally filed in March, but delayed due the COVID-19 pandemic. It would generate over $140 million in additional revenue for National Grid.

Virtual public statement hearings start Wednesday via Webex at 1 and 6 p.m., and continue into next week.  Some of the hearings are by phone.  A full schedule is available here.