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Morning Spew

If Con Ed Doesn’t Jack Up Electricity Rates How Do You Expect Them to Profit Off of the Provision of a Basic Human Necessity

And some steamy links for your Thursday.

9:39 AM EDT on July 27, 2023

The Statue of Liberty in the distance, as the sun sets against an orange sky.

(Hell Gate)

Are you cranking up your AC right now? You should, if you can—it's going to be a hot, steamy day, and in response to the excessive heat warning issued for today and tomorrow, the City is opening up cooling centers (you can call 311 to find one or go here), extending pool hours (but not beach hours), and urging people to stay indoors if possible. 

"Heat is deadly, and climate change is making extreme heat more frequent and even more dangerous, especially for vulnerable New Yorkers, so it is absolutely critical that we take care of ourselves and each other," said NYC Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan, adding that special attention should be paid to "older and less mobile adults." 

Tell all that to Con Edison, who last week was given the green light by state regulators to hike its customers' electricity and gas bills every year for three years, beginning in August. It's a move that opponents of the rate hike say will fall hardest on the backs of low-income New Yorkers and seniors on fixed incomes, who are already struggling to pay their high utility bills. (As the Daily News noted, "Con Ed’s residential rates were the second-highest charged by any big city utility in the 48 contiguous states in 2021.")

If you rely on Con Ed for your electricity and/or gas, here's a breakdown of how your pocketbook will be affected, via Habitat magazine (emphasis my own):

Under the plan, the average Con Edison customer's monthly electric bill will go up by 9.1% or $14.44, while the typical gas customers' bill will rise by 8.4% or $17.28. The Con Edison rate increase will extend to electric customers in most of New York City and Westchester county, and the utility's gas customers who are concentrated in Manhattan and the Bronx.

The rising rates will be followed by additional increases over the next two years. In 2024, the average electric bill will go up by an additional 4.2% or $7.20, then by another 1.4% or $2.43 in 2025. Gas rates will climb another 6.7% or $14.90 in 2024, and increase to 6.6% or $15.61 in 2025.

Con Ed has argued that the rate hikes are necessary to cover increased costs and rising property taxes, an argument that the state's Public Service Commission (as well as Mayor Eric Adams) was swayed by. Of course, there's another way of looking at it: Con Ed, an investor-owned utility which is reporting healthy profits, simply wants to keep on profiting off of providing an essential public good. And while the plan approved last week requires Con Ed to continue to provide discounts to low-income customers (as well as develop green energy infrastructure), critics, including many members of the City Council, argue that the company and the state aren't doing enough to enroll people who qualify in the Energy Assistance Program. 

In a joint statement, AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel and the Public Utility Law Project of New York Executive Director Laurie Wheelock assailed the rate hikes. "A double-digit delivery rate hike and higher fixed charges are simply too much to bear for the overburdened NYC and Westchester County ratepayers who rely on Con Edison for their electric, natural gas, or cooking gas service," they wrote, before noting that in June of this year, more than 400,000 households were behind on their Con Ed energy bills and that 150,000 households received final termination notices. "This hefty rate increase will only add to the financial strain so many of these very same New Yorkers are experiencing," they said. 

Queens Assemblymember Zohran Kwame Mamdani, who has been criticizing the looming rate hikes for months, says the tepid commitment to help people pay their bills isn't enough. "What's so frustrating to me is that we tout these relief programs as the answer, but we know that systemically, people cannot afford this," Mamdani told AM New York. "Even if you were going to provide relief to, let's say to 50,000 households for $250 million dollars, you would still have another 100,000 households who have received final termination notices, just in the last month." He added, "What we need to do in the years to come is to fundamentally change the way that we run and distribute energy in this state."

If only!

And some steamy links for your Thursday:

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