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National Grid Files Rate Hike Proposal

National Grid recently announced it will ask New York state’s Public Service Commission to raise electricity delivery prices beginning in April 2018. The change would add $22 a month to average utility bills.

The utility filed a plan with the Public Service Commission on April 28. National Grid spokesman Patrick Stella says the rate hike will foster infrastructure investments.     "For the last ten years, bills have been relatively stable, and we've done a really, really good job of trying to mitigate any kind of spike in bills over that time. So that's the first thing. The second thing to remember too is when we talk about that $22, it's actually, it's about $12 or so on the electric side, and another $10 or so on the gas side, and not all our customers are electric and gas. Here in the eastern division in New York state it's about half. So half the customers are electric only, and then the other customers are electric and gas."

New Yorkers already pay some of the highest energy costs in the nation. Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara worries a rate hike will negatively impact Upstate families and businesses.  "Soon as I heard the news about this proposal going into the Public Service Commission I wrote a letter to National Grid's president of New York operations asking him to withdraw this proposal, actually urging him to withdraw this proposal. I simply call the proposal unacceptable, we'll have to find another way. This is not going to be something that we are going to agree with.  In a similar letter, I wrote a letter to the Public Service Commission, asking members of the Commission to consider the impact of rate increases on customers and to reject this proposal."

National Grid has proposed phasing in the rate hike over time to lessen the impact. Santabarbara, a Democrat from the Capitol Region, says that's not acceptable. "Many families now have just started to recover from the devastating impacts of the economic recession that we experienced over the last eight years."

According to the PSC, National Grid terminated service for more residential customers for nonpayment last year than for any year in the past decade. Stella says programs are available for people struggling to pay their bills. "We have some deferral programs for customers where we can defer payment. We have some simple things like budget billing, that will actually even out those bills over a year's time to help customers. So there are some of those things. And we also work with customers to try to get them assistance through some of their local social service agencies, through HEAP, through the federal government, and things like that. We have customer advocates here at National Grid, some of them local here in the eastern division too, that help both customers on an individual basis and try to figure out different ways that we can help them manage their bills."

Gregg Sayre, the interim chair of the PSC, says National Grid's rate filing will be subject to a rigorous eleven month statutory review process.  "This detailed review will include a careful and close examination of the company's proposal by commission staff, as well as by other interested parties including National Grid's customers, and ample opportunities for public comment and public hearings. At the end of the review process, the PSC will have the final say in determining what the rates will actually be."

If approved, the rate increase would take effect April 1, 2018.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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