ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN)-Hundreds of people have sent messages to the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) regarding a proposal from National Grid. The proposal includes delivery rate increases over three years from 2022-2024, and expansion of natural gas lines.
A public comment period on National Grid’s proposal drew angry comments from people asking the PSC to deny the increase, many of whom said they are already having a hard time paying utility bills. The comments are available on the PSC’s website.
“My national grid bill is already on the edge of what I can afford, and they are the only major company I can get my utilities through in the area,” said Capital Region resident Lee Ferrini. “They are using their monopoly to choke out their customers. I want an affordable, GREEN option where my money is not going into the pockets of shareholders or ineffectual CEOs.”
Other people suggested it wasn’t the time for National Grid to propose a delivery rate increase, citing COVID, rising inflation, and increased costs of living. “Folks, I truly wish you would not raise these rates. I know it is a done deal, but with all the prices rising of everything, it is getting difficult to pay bills on time. Please reconsider,” said Lou Parrotta, from Utica.
The proposal would raise delivery rates 5.2% for electric and 5.6% for gas over the three years, but the cost to National Grid’s customers would be higher, according to the PSC. Residents who use 600 kilowatts of electricity a month would see an increase of between 6.24-6.72% based on location. The estimated cost for customers who use 82 therms a month of gas would be 8.41% at the end of the three years.
“Please do not allow rates to increase at this time. The very notion that raising rates on an essential service at a time when so many are still recovering from loss of employment or are now working for reduced wages is just cruel,” said P.A. Gordon. “I do not see sufficient justification for an increase as services are already expensive as they are.”
Heating costs are expected in some cases to be significantly higher this year for some New Yorkers. A typical upstate resident using natural gas to heat their home can anticipate a $155 increase over the 2020-2021 winter season.
From November to March, the average bill for residential customers is forecasted to be $651, up nearly $500 from the previous winter. A spokesperson for National Grid said the increase was due to the overall rise in the cost of natural gas from its providers. Another told NEWS10’s sister station it was because global supply is down.
A group of 36 local and state legislators that included Senator Michelle Hinchey, Assemblymember Patricia Fahy and Albany County Legislator Sam Fein submitted a letter that said residents cannot afford another increase:
“National Grid paid over $1 billion in dividends to shareholders in 2020. The company also continues to pay its top executives millions of dollars each year; for example, CEO John Pettigrew was paid $6.8 million in the 2019-20 year (more than $3,000 per hour). The COVID-19 pandemic has required New Yorkers to make one sacrifice after another. We had hoped National Grid would demonstrate its commitment to our communities and its customers by making some sacrifices of its own.”
They also said the proposal goes against the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act’s (CLCPA) goal of New York reaching 100% renewable energy and net-zero emissions by 2050:
“The CLCPA requires all state agencies, including the Public Service Commission (PSC), to make decisions concerning permits, licenses, and rate proceedings that are consistent with achieving those emission reduction targets. Therefore, instead of approving investments in gas infrastructure, we ask the Public Service Commission to direct National Grid to ensure customers have access to cost-saving and gas-saving energy efficiency measures like weatherization.”
Residents also took issue with the proposed expansion of natural gas lines and made clear their concerns, saying that they thought the proposal did not align with climate change goals. “Please do not allow further investment in fossil fuel infrastructure. We should be putting all available resources into green energy at this point,” said Mary Ann Warner.
“I oppose the proposed National Grid rate hike and any new infrastructure for fossil fuels,” said Christy McElligott. “We must all dig deep to stop the worst climate change and that means radical changes in energy production.”
NEWS10 contacted PSC, who said they would be making a final decision in the next couple of months, once they’ve had time to review all public comments. PSC’s Public Information Officer also told NEWS10, “The PSC can accept, reject or modify the joint proposal that has been submitted in the National Grid rate case proceeding.”
Below is the letter sent to the PSC by legislators.