Area legislators urge O&R to kill rate hike proposal

Originally published in Mid Hudson News

MONROE – Senators James Skoufis, Elijah Reichlin-Melnick, and Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski want Orange and Rockland Utilities to cancel their planned rate hikes.

The three lawmakers gathered outside the O&R offices in Monroe on Friday to send their message to company officials.

“We’re here today to call on Orange & Rockland to read the writing on the wall: struggling Hudson Valley ratepayers can’t tolerate these surging bills and they shouldn’t be asked to bear an even larger financial burden,” said Skoufis, who chairs the Senate’s investigations and government operations committee. “O&R must rescind its rate case immediately to ensure residents and small business owners won’t be asked to choose between keeping the lights on and feeding their families.”

“New Yorkers continue to feel the brunt of high utility rates, and the proposed hike from O&R will only create further financial difficulties for hardworking families,” said Zebrowski. “The proposal being considered by the PSC comes at a time when many are still facing overdue payments and trying to make up for those. Now is not the time to force even more pressure on ratepayers, it is time for O&R to withdraw this rate hike proposal and work to find more affordable options for customers.”

The rate increase proposal is before the state Public Service Commission. O&R is seeking to increase its electric delivery revenues by $24.5 million, and its gas delivery revenues by nearly $10 million over the next three years.

In recent months, neighboring utility Central Hudson got the green light from the PSC in November on its own three-year rate plans, enabling the company’s electric delivery revenues to jump $16 million and gas delivery revenues to jump close to $12 million by 2024.

Central Hudson’s rate hike approval comes on the heels of the company’s mishandling of a billing system transition that left the accounts of thousands of consumers in disarray, followed by crushing surges in global energy supply costs.

Due to mounting pressure from local legislators, Skoufis’ recent announcement of a formal Senate investigation into utility companies, power providers, and other services was expected to conclude this week, but have been delayed.

Skoufis sent a letter to the Public Service Commission on March 4 urging commissioners to suspend any consideration of O&R’s rate hikes.  Both Melnick and Zebrowski have been in communication with the governor’s office about the need for PSC to reign in rate increases.