Area elected officials and residents turned up the heat on New York State Electric and Gas (NYSEG) last week for seeking a proposed rate increase next year that the majority considered unwarranted and unreasonable.
The New York State Public Service Commission (PSC), which received NYSEG’s proposed new electric and gas tariff schedules on May 20 and will make a ruling on the submission in the near future, held a public hearing at Yorktown Town Hall September 5 to gather comments from customers and representatives in communities served by NYSEG, and they were bombarded with an earful of complaints.
“People get raises when they do good work. You’re not doing good work!,” asserted longtime Yorktown resident Joan Brodsky. “It is getting worse and worse.”
In Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess counties, NYSEG serves approximately 894,000 electricity and 266,000 natural gas customers. Under its plan, which if approved by the PSC would take effect in April 2020, NYSEG’s annual electric delivery rates would increase by 22.7% and gas delivery rates would rise by 4.6%. NYSEG projects the average residential monthly electric bill would increase by $11.23 (15% on the total bill) and gas bills would jump by $1.71 (1.9% on the total bill).
According to NYSEG, vegetation management is the biggest reason for the requested electric rate increase. The gas delivery rate hike is primarily associated with depreciation, infrastructure investments and increases to operation and maintenance expenses.
Westchester County Legislator Michael Kaplowitz (D/Somers), who noted NYSEG increased rates each year by 4% from 2016 to 2019, told PSC officials based on NYSEG’s response to storms in 2018 and 2019, including lackluster customer service, there should be no change in customer’s rates next year.
“Service has been nothing short of abysmal,” Kaplowitz remarked. “We have really been tortured for a long time. There should be no increase.”
Westchester County Executive George Latimer said the PSC should give NYSEG 12 months to improve its performance and earn the right to ask for a rate hike.
“NYSEG has failed residents in this section of Westchester County,” Latimer said. “No company could get away with charging more for bad service.”
Yorktown Supervisor Ilan Gilbert, who convinced the PSC to hold an additional forum in northern Westchester, said the proposed hike would result in 13,000 customers in Yorktown paying approximately $1 million more to NYSEG.
“Residents have seen a decline in customer service and less reliable service. We are the end of NYSEG’s service area and sometimes the service reflects that,” Gilbert said. “I find it incredulous that a year and a half later (after the 2018 storm that left customers without power for days) NYSEG would have the audacity to request a rate increase.”
Gilbert’s remarks were shared by fellow elected officials in Bedford, Lewisboro, North Salem, Somers and Peekskill.
“There’s a lack of credibility with this utility and its customer base. There is a big credibility gap,” said State Senator Peter Harckham (D/40th District). “This price tag by any measure is too high.”
Mark Henbury, a 48-year resident of Yorktown, said NYSEG’s frequent power outages and poor services over the years forced him and many of his neighbors to purchase generators.
“We can’t depend on you to provide continuous service,” he said.
PSC Commissioner Diane Berman, one of the individuals that will vote on NYSEG’s request, promised those in attendance their comments would carry weight.
“It is really important for me to hear from you today,” she said. “I promise I will take back the information to my fellow commissioners.”