AARP NY to Governor: Speak Out Against Proposed Record-Breaking NYSEG/RG&E Utility Rate Hikes
Governor Hochul Called Original Proposal ‘Outrageous & Unacceptable’; Plan Due for Vote this Week Mostly Unchanged
ALBANY, N.Y. – AARP New York is calling on Governor Kathy Hochul to speak out against a record-breaking New York State Electric & Gas (NYSEG) and Rochester Gas & Electric (RG&E) rate hike proposal, which is due to be voted on by utility regulators this week.
The Governor has an excellent track record helping New Yorkers cope with high energy bills. She took on the utility arears crisis in New York that was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and helped millions of New Yorkers struggling to pay their bills,” AARP New York stated.
The organization sent the Governor a letter (reprinted below in full) voicing its “strenuous opposition” to the proposal – and reminding her that she called the utility companies’ original rate hike request “outrageous and unacceptable.”
“The revised proposal is little different from the utilities’ original request,” AARP New York pointed out.
The proposed 62% electric delivery rate increase for NYSEG would be the highest delivery rate increase in recent memory, and it is AARP’s understanding it would force the average customer to pony up $900 over the anticipated two-and-a-half year duration of the proposal.
“New Yorkers are still suffering economically from the pandemic, and a 62 percent increase should be off the table,” said AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel. “We agreed with the Governor when she called the utilities’ original request ‘outrageous and unacceptable’. We hope she will weigh in directly with the Public Service Commission on behalf of struggling NYSEG and RG&E customers and urge regulators to reject this unfair deal.”
AARP New York is urging the Public Service Commission (PSC) to reject the proposal and instead adopt “reasonable temporary rates.”
Not only would the rate increase be substantial, but the PSC is currently investigating a widespread NYSEG billing fiasco – which resulted in one customer receiving a bill of $67,665.
Upstate utility customers are indeed struggling; poverty rates are about 29% in Rochester, 33% in Syracuse, and 28% in Buffalo – all twice or more the statewide 14% poverty rate.
“Ever higher utility bills inexorably result in ever larger numbers of customers in arrears as well as in hundreds of thousands more service terminations,” AARP New York’s letter notes.
According to data on the New York State Department of Public Service website, NYSEG reported the following latest customer data: 132,115 households are 60 days behind on their utility bill, 70,614 received a final termination notice and 1,516 households were terminated in the month of August. RG&E numbers are not any better: 78,852 were 60 days behind, 41,392 were issued a termination notice and 404 were terminated.
AARP New York also pointed out that the State chose to saddle utility customers, rather than all taxpayers, with the multi-billion-dollar cost of transitioning to a clean energy economy – “even though utility bills … are regressive, whereas taxes are based on one’s income.”
Also, only about half of income-eligible utility customers are enrolled in their utility’s low-income “Energy Assistance Program” (EAP), which helps low-income customers pay their bills.
AARP New York is urging the Governor to sign S4548/A4876, legislation sponsored by Senate Energy Committee Chair Kevin Parker and Assembly Member Michaelle Solages, chair of the Legislative Black, Hispanic, Asian & Puerto Rican Caucus, which would require “data matching” to ensure customers qualifying for EAPs are enrolled in them.
AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation’s largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org, www.aarp.org/espanol or follow @AARP, @AARPenEspanol and @AARPadvocates, @AliadosAdelante on social media.