New Yorkers not ATMs for Utilities

This op-ed is based upon the public comments we delivered to the PSC regarding Central Hudson’s proposed rate hike. 

I am honored to represent nine towns in Dutchess County in the state Assembly that are covered by Central Hudson’s gas or electric service. So, as the Public Service Commission (PSC) decides on whether to raise gas and electric rates for Central Hudson customers, I feel a responsibility to urge the PSC to be sensitive to the financial well-being of the Hudson Valley residents.

According to the PSC, gas and electric bills will each see increases of over $8.00 per month, which amounts to around $200 per year for a customer who receives both services from Central Hudson.

This amount is not insignificant for the many seniors who live on fixed incomes, for those not fully employed or under employed, or for residents who are part of still struggling rural towns. Therefore, I strongly encourage the PSC to be conscious of the impact this proposal would have on the household budgets of all ratepayers in our region.

There are some encouraging aspects of Central Hudson’s proposal. This includes the Low Income Discount Program which will provide much needed relief to fixed income and low income residents; replacing old and unsafe pipe is a necessary and important task and promoting energy efficiency with financial incentives to purchase lighting and modern heating and cooling systems is laudable.

Other pieces of the proposal – including devoting money to a new workforce training facility – raise questions. Surely, Central Hudson can accommodate the functions of this facility into existing space and spare the ratepayers this cost. The proposal to increase the frequency of tree trimming and right of way maintenance, which I understand to be a substantial cost and the largest driver of rate increases, is hard to accept for ratepayers who will then see more of their paychecks go to gas and electric bills. I urge the PSC and Central Hudson to take a hard look at this piece of the proposal and what impact it would really have on reducing service interruptions.

Further, New York state utility customers are subsidizing three nuclear power plants through charges to their utility bill, which will cost New Yorkers a whopping $1 billion over the next 2 years. This is effectively another rate hike that consumers pay as part of the delivery cost on their utility bills. The increase, which the PSC voted to implement, makes justifying Central Hudson’s proposal an even tougher pill to swallow.

Simply put, New Yorkers should not be viewed as an ATM for public utility companies, and it is up to the PSC to take a stand for families in the Hudson Valley.

About Diner Dialogues

Didi Barrett was elected to the New York State Assembly in a special election in March 2012 and re-elected to a full term in November 2012. Her district, the 106th AD, covers some of the most beautiful parts of Columbia and Dutchess Counties. She has deep roots in the Hudson Valley and came to elected office after a career as a community activist, writer and longtime leader of not-for-profit organizations. Didi is passionate about the agricultural, natural, cultural and historic resources of the Hudson Valley and their critical importance as economic engines and job generators. She is also a great fan of the iconic diners that dot the region. As a member of the Assembly she serves on the Committees on Aging; Agriculture; Economic Development, Job Creation, Commerce and Industry; Mental Health; Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Development and Veterans Affairs.
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