Con Edison's rate hike approved

March 19, 2008 4:35:39 PM PDT
Con Edison customers can expect higher electric bills after state utility regulators approved a rate hike of almost 5 percent.The increase approved Wednesday by the state's Public Service Commission will allow Con Ed to collect an additional $425 million annually from its customers in New York City and Westchester County.

Commission spokesman James Denn says the company demonstrated to the commission that a rate increase is justified in order to continue providing safe and reliable service.

Denn says the average monthly bill for a New York City household will rise $4.25. Westchester households will see an average hike of more than $5.60 a month.

He says the approved increase was a fraction of the $1.2 billion annual hike Con Ed sought.

Assemblyman Michael Gianaris blasted the public service commission for the decision, denouncing it as "profoundly irresponsible."

"The PSC is now an accomplice to Con Edison in one of the most outrageous fleecings of ratepayers in modern memory," he said. "To approve the highest rate increase in history without insisting on any of the dramatic reforms necessary to fix Con Edison's management is the height of irresponsibility."

The PSC decision comes on the heels of its own study, issued January 1, 2008, that found that New Yorkers pay 63 percent more for electricity than upstate residents. New York residents already pay some of the highest energy rates in the nation.

While Assemblyman Gianaris agrees the electricity infrastructure in New York is in a state of disrepair, he opposes any rate hikes unless Con Edison is reformed and is no longer an unaccountable monopoly. He is the author of legislation requiring Con Edison to face competition and greater oversight.

"This is a shameful cycle," he said. "Con Edison asks for more money to make improvements, the PSC approves rate hikes, Con Edison's investors reap higher and higher dividends, and New Yorkers are left with the same substandard and dangerous service."

Gianaris is the leading advocate for reform of Con Edison and has worked tirelessly to advance legislation requiring the monopoly to be more accountable to its customers. Following the 2006 blackout in Queens that left over 170,000 residents and businesses without power, Gianaris headed a task force dedicated to reforming Con Edison that resulted in dozens of reform recommendations.

Con Ed issued the following statement:

"We will review the details of the Public Service Commission (PSC) decision when we receive it. Con Edison has done a great deal to keep the power flowing safely and reliably, but we can not meet expectations for maintaining and improving the system without greater investments. We will continue to work with the PSC to develop a long-term energy plan that provides adequate resources for a sustainable energy future -- an important safeguard in these volatile times.

We must continue building new substations and installing thousands of miles of new cable to support economic growth in our area, and to provide the reliable service New Yorkers need to power their computers, heating and cooling systems, and other modern appliances. Conservation and energy efficiency programs will play an equally important role in meeting those needs, as well as the state and city's carbon reduction goals.