New York State Electric and Gas’ request to increase its electric delivery rate by nearly 23 percent next spring has angered northern Westchester residents and public officials who think the utility's service is unreliable, especially during storms.
If the increase is approved, the average NYSEG monthly electrical bill is projected to rise by about $11.30 for the average residential customer.
The state Public Service Commission, which will decide whether to approve NYSEG’s request for a 22.7% increase in the electric delivery rate, heard from residents, Westchester County Executive George Latimer and state Sen. Pete Harckham during a recent hearing in Yorktown.
Residents and public leaders from Bedford, Lewisboro, North Salem and Yorktown also expressed their outrage.
“Twenty percent for a utility rate increase is just unacceptable,” said state Sen. Pete Harckham, a Democrat.
According to Harckham, Senate District 40 residents who have NYSEG as their energy provider suffer from frequent power outages during major and even minor weather events because NYSEG "has been woefully unprepared."
"Yet NYSEG is asking for a huge rate increase. It's totally undeserved and I will fight against this," Harckham said.
Lewisboro Supervisor Peter Parsons called the proposal unconscionable and said it should not be granted.
If approved, NYSEG's new electrical rate would take effect in April 2020. The utility also seeks approval for a 4.6 percent increase to deliver gas, a $2 monthly rate increase for the average residential customer.
NYSEG spokesman David Gridley said the proposed rates “enable NYSEG to continue to provide safe and reliable electric and gas service along with high-quality customer service, while also recognizing the important objective of maintaining customer rates that are affordable and among the lowest in New York state.”
NYSEG has about 894,000 electrical customers and 267,000 gas customers in New York state.
NYSEG said its residential customers have the lowest average monthly electric bill in the state, at $42, compared to other major utility companies. NYSEG’s figures, shown at the public hearing, put Con Edison’s delivery bill at $79, Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp’s at $75, Orange and Rockland’s at $72, National Grid’s at $53, and Rochester Gas & Electric's at $50 monthly.
NYSEG said revenue from the increased rates would go to investment in its system to make it more resilient during increasingly severe storms. A key part of its plan is to do more to remove tree limbs and other vegetation, which can affect power lines during storms. To upgrade aging infrastructure, the company will improve 139 of the most challenged circuits in its system. A gas pipeline replacement project underway would continue as well.
"Our goal is to reduce the service outages and restore power faster for the safety and welfare of the communities we serve," Gridley said during a slide presentation at the public hearing.
Concerns raised by town officials include what they called a slow response to storms and inaccurate information posted on utility websites about projected power restoration times.
Nancy Fink, a spokeswoman for Harckham, said, "We are collecting emails. . . and the Senator does plan to get them to the PSC."
NYSEG filed its rate change request in May. The review and decision process for a utility's request generally takes about 11 months,