Albany County legislators raise alert to proposed double-digit utility rate increase

Legislators, joined by AARP New York and Public Utility Law Project, discussed impact on property taxes and Capital Region inflation rate; propose legislation to mitigate situation

(L-R) Public Utility Law Project Executive Director Richard Berkley, resident Geneva Conway, AARP New York’s Bill Ferris, Albany County Legislator Christopher T. Higgins outside of National Grid in Albany, N.Y. on Aug. 29, 2017 (photo credit: Relentless)

ALBANY, N.Y. (Aug. 29, 2017) — Albany County Legislators Alison McLean Lane, Christopher T. Higgins, and Joe O’Brien today announced proposed legislation that will urge Albany County to become a party to the National Grid rate increase case before the New York State Public Service Commission and alerted the entire county to the impact this rate increase would have on local property taxes and inflation.

The legislators were joined by representatives from AARP New York and the Public Utility Law Project.

“The proposed double-digit increase to our utility delivery rates for both electric and gas by National Grid is, by far, one of the highest rate increases we have seen proposed. Should this rate increase be approved, it would wreak havoc on our local property tax rates, as well as the inflation rate of Albany County and the entire region,” said McLean Lane. “Those on fixed incomes, such as seniors, have not seen double digit percentage increases to their social security; and locally, wages have remained stagnant for years.”

“Simply put, National Grid’s rate increase is unacceptable and should be emphatically rejected by the Public Service Commission,” said Higgins. “A rate increase of this magnitude will disproportionately affect our seniors and add more stress to County programs like HEAP, at a time when municipalities are realizing lower than anticipated sales tax revenues within the context of living with the state property tax cap,” Higgins continued.

Albany County Legislator Christopher T. Higgins at a Aug. 29, 2017 press conference (photo credit: Relentless)

McLean Lane added, “National Grid received a rate increase as recently as 2013, in addition to a percentage profit increase to nine percent. Now they are seeking a rate increase, and another profit increase to 9.79 percent. So while they are looking towards us, the ratepayers, to finance their infrastructure, they are also looking to us to pay their shareholders increased profits. This is a complete outrage.”

The Public Utility Law Project has been advocating for local governments across New York State to become parties to the National Grid Rate increase case. Should Albany County become a party, it will join the cities of Albany, Buffalo and Syracuse, which have partnered in this effort.

“Albany County is facing an affordability crisis. With a poverty rate of 26 percent and roughly 30 percent of working families being unable to afford their bills, more than 50 percent of the residents of the county were in financial crisis even before National Grid’s double-digit rate increase,” said Richard Berkley, executive director of the Public Utility Law Project of New York. “While the company’s investments in safety and economic development are important to the Upstate economy generally, and to Albany County and the Capital Region specifically, the large increases in delivery rates and their impact upon low and fixed-income households will add to the 66,000 shutoffs in Grid’s territory last year.”

“With the price of necessities such as prescription drugs soaring but Social Security cost-of-living adjustments barely rising, Capital Region residents can’t afford a double-digit increase in their energy delivery rates — especially older residents on fixed or limited incomes,” said Bill Ferris, AARP New York State Legislative Representative. “AARP applauds Legislator McLean Lane and her colleagues for calling attention to this threat — and for proposing action aimed at pressing state regulators to reject National Grid’s proposal.”

“National Grid customers like me are finally paying rates that are around what Americans pay on average for their utilities,” said Geneva Conway, an AARP volunteer and a constituent of Legislator McLean Lane. “The company should not be allowed to raise rates through the roof again.”

McLean Lane, Higgins, and O’Brien will present a Rule 11 resolution on Sept. 11, 2017, to urge Albany County to become a party to the National Grid rate case.

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