New York Daily News: New York lawmakers ask for hearing on Con Edison prices as energy costs soar

Originally published in New York Daily News on September 29, 2022.

As New York faces down a winter of ballooning heating costs and brutal electric bills, more than 50 state lawmakers on Monday demanded a public hearing on future Con Edison price hikes.

The global gas price swell stirred by the Russian invasion of Ukraine is expected to sharply elevate energy bills this winter: The Kremlin has cut gas exports in response to Western sanctions, and most of New York City’s electrical supply comes from fossil fuels.

Con Edison, New York City’s largest utility supplier, has warned that residential customers in the city are projected to see 22% bumps in their electrical bills this winter, and that average heating prices in the city and Westchester County could rise by 32%.

Con Edison, which serves about 10 million people across the city and Westchester, maintains that it neither sets nor profits off supply costs. The company attributes around one-fifth of its projected winter gas cost increase to delivery fees.

Still, state Sen. Michael Gianaris and Assemblyman Zohran Mamdani, two Queens Democrats, led a letter to the Public Service Commission and Gov. Hochul demanding a fresh public hearing reviewing Con Edison’s 2023 price proposal.

They said Con Edison’s proposal could translate to $59 in monthly gas and electrical costs for customers next year on top of the winter projections. Hearings were last held on the proposal in March.

The letter asserted that New Yorkers have not received an “adequate seat at the table” and that Con Edison is angling to “line their pockets” to the tune of more than $1 billion in revenue increases in 2023.

“Working-class New Yorkers need another chance to be heard,” said the letter, signed by 51 lawmakers.

The Public Service Commission sounded unswayed.

James Denn, a spokesman for the commission, said in a statement that the “public has had significant opportunity to comment on the ongoing rate request and has been doing so,” and that the commission has received almost 8,000 public comments.

Hochul’s office referred a request for comment to the Public Service Department.

A spokesman for Con Edison, Allan Drury, said the proposal would help push New York toward a cleaner energy future and include programs to soothe pain for low-income customers.

Gianaris said by phone that the governor and the department should “agree to have another hearing at minimum,” urging that they “subject this proposal to greater scrutiny, and greater sensitivity to the struggles that people are having.”

And Mamdani said existing energy rates are forcing his constituents to make “unacceptable” choices about their spending.

“This is such a hard rate increase to justify and defend,” Mamdani said. “My belief is that one of the only ways this would get through in the manner that Con Ed is hoping is if enough people don’t know about it.”

Read the full story at the New York Daily News here.