Cuomo Calls on Board to Deny Con-Ed Rate Hike

NEW YORK -

In an unusual response to a rate hike request by New York’s power deliverer Consolidated Edison, the state board charged with approving rates instead proposed a rate cut following three years of declining electricity costs, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Meanwhile, citing Superstorm Sandy devastation and recent outages that shut down parts of interstate transit, Gov. Andrew Cuomo appealed to the bipartisan state Public Service Commission to deny an election year rate increase for Con Ed, which already charges more for electricity than almost any other major U.S. utility.

“With the anniversary of Superstorm Sandy approaching and the recent power outage on the Metro-North’s New Haven line that inconvenienced tens of thousands of commuters, it’s clear that now is not the time for Con Edison to demand that its customers pay more,” Cuomo said.

In their own request for the rate hike, Con Ed cited those very disasters as reasons for their need to shore up equipment and power lines and give their shareholders hefty returns. They want to increase electric delivery rates by 8 percent, gas delivery rates by 2.5 percent, and steam delivery rates by 2.3 percent.

If given the go-ahead, the increases would give Con Ed $450.9 million in new revenue starting next year.

However, staff at the Public Service Commission challenged Con Ed’s proposal, saying that because of low interest rates on their loans, the utility can cut its rates while still providing its investors a fair return.

The utility said that if granted an increase, the average New York City apartment building resident would see their bill increase by about $3.26, to $84.90. But under the PSC plan, the average customer would reduce electric rates by about $1.41, to $80.23.

The five-member Commission — which currently includes three Democrats and two Republicans — is expected to decide the case in December and isn’t bound by its staff’s proposal for rate cuts. The commissioners are appointed by New York’s governor to staggered six-year terms.

The commission scheduled a public hearing in Manhattan on Wednesday.