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Con Ed bills 63 percent higher in NYC: Study

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The state's Public Service Commission released its bi-annual survey of utility bills across the state earlier this year, which found that Con Ed customers in the five boroughs and Westchester County pay an estimated 63 percent more for their utility bills than upstate residents who use Central Hudson Gas & Electric.The PSC is expected to decide on the utility's proposed $1.2 billion rate hike that would increase customers' bills by as much as 36 percent, making it the largest rate hike in the company's history. City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) said the PSC's recent utility bill survey is evidence that city residents are already paying too much."We can understand paying a little more in New York City, but over 60 percent is ridiculous," he said. "To ask residents to pay more on their bills is the height of arrogance. Con Ed does not have many friends in northwestern Queens. If you go a hundred feet from my office, you'll still see a vacant store where a vibrant Cold Stone Creamery used to be. Many businesses are still trying to get out from under the losses caused by Con Ed's negligence."Western Queens elected officials blasted the utility for its performance during the 10-day borough blackout in July 2006, which caused 174,000 residents to lose power and resulted in the loss of millions of dollars for businesses.The PSC's survey found that Con Ed customers who use 500 kilowatt hours of electricity in January paid an average $110.20, while Central Hudson customers paid $67.66 during that same time period. Customer bills are split up into two charges: one for service and another for delivery.A Con Ed spokesman said the utility charges customers the same amount that they pay for supply, which is the actual electricity. But Con Ed charges higher amounts than upstate utilities for delivery of services for a variety of reasons, he said."Delivery charges are higher due to the higher costs of maintaining our vast underground system and the higher taxes that exist downstate," he said. He said the utility manages miles of underground cable throughout the five boroughs and thousands of transformers.But state Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said the utility's higher bills were the result of an "unaccountable monopoly.""The reality is that we pay so much more because Con Ed mismanages the money that they take from ratepayers," he said. "Con Ed cannot hide behind the fact that things are more expensive in New York City and disguise their horrible efforts at managing their own system."Gianaris said he expected the PSC to approve Con Ed's rate hike, which would increase bills for residents paying $70 per month by an estimated 17 percent, or $12, and force businesses paying $2,200 a month to pay 10.7 percent, or $235, more.A PSC spokeswoman said the commission would very likely make a decision on the hike at its meeting this week.Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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