Ratepayers to PSEG: Utility bills are too damn high!

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03/03/2015 8:00 AM |
PSEG held a public meeting Thursday at the Riverhead Free Library to discuss a rate increase plan. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)

The state Department of Public Service held a public meeting Monday at the Riverhead Free Library to discuss PSEG’s rate increase plan. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)

Long Islanders are blasting PSEG Long Island’s proposed rate increase plan and say current utility costs are already too high.

About 85 people attended an informational session Monday night at the Riverhead Free Library to discuss PSEG’s three-year rate plan, which was followed by a hearing for public comment.

The proposed rate hike to the delivery charge portion of an average residential customer’s bill is a 3.8 percent increase in 2016, or $3.25 per month, according to a PSEG press release. In 2017 and 2018, the proposed increase is 3.9 percent, or $3.30 per month.

Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) said in a statement read by a member of his staff that he believes the rate increase should be rejected and described the proposal as the largest delivery charge increase in the LIPA’s history.

“LIPA’s answer to everything is ‘We need more money,’” Mr. Thiele wrote. “We do not have any more money. You can’t keep putting your hands in the pocket of ratepayers. That’s not the answer. The answer is use the money you have better.”

Longwood School District Board of Education president Daniel Tomaszewski and Middle Island Civic president Gail Lynch-Bailey questioned PSEG’s intentions to increase rates.

“I really want assurances from PSEG that they’re in it for Long Island and not for the other plants they maintain in the tri-state area, as well as Pennsylvania,” Ms. Lynch-Bailey said. “Is that what this delivery rate increase is going to be about? I hope not.”

Both Mr. Tomaszewski and Ms. Lynch-Bailey supported a Caithness II proposal to build a new power plant in Yaphank, which was rejected this past summer after PSEG deemed the facility unnecessary.

Coram resident Chris Reilly said he also supported the Caithness II proposal because he believes it would protect the tax base and jobs locally. He described living on Long Island as a senior citizen on a fixed income as difficult and said he’s “extremely alarmed” by the proposed hike.

Of the 12 people that spoke during the public hearing, only one person supported the rate increase.

“We all know what happened during Sandy — nobody wants their lights to go out and stay out for weeks,” said Don Daley of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers local 1049, which represents PSEG and LIPA workers. “If you cut corners on investment in critical infrastructure, you run a risk of being left in the dark.

“An extra $3.30 a month is well worth the price for piece of mind.”

PSEG’s rate plan, which was submitted in January to the state Department of Public Service for review, includes investments for upgrading the grid, maintaining customer service, improving its storm response and preparedness program, and enhancing tree trimming work, among other services.

Also included is an increased discount for qualified low-income customers: from $5 a month to $10 a month for non-heat residential services; and from $5 a month to $15 a month for residential heating, according to a PSEG handout.

Following DPS’s review, Long Island Power Authority’s board is expected to vote PSEG’s proposal.

LIPA spokesman Michael Deering said after the meeting each comment will be addressed throughout the rate case proceeding.

A similar forum is scheduled for Tuesday, March 3, at the William H. Rogers Legislative Building auditorium in Hauppauge. The 6 p.m. informational session will be followed by a 7 p.m. hearing for public comment.

Comments may also be submitted online at www.dps.ny.gov/longisland, by phone to the Department of Public Service at 1-800-335-2120, or mailed to Hon. Kathleen H. Burgess, Department of Public Service, Three Empire State Plaza, Albany NY 12223-1350.

The deadline to submit comment is July 1.

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