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Vallone, Gianaris slam Con Ed’s rate hike proposal

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Western Queens elected officials said they were steamed last week when Con Edison proposed raising its rates by an additional $165 million next year following the state’s approval of a $425 million rate hike in May.

A Con Ed spokesman said the utility’s request follows an increase in property taxes and operating costs as well as decliningdemand for electricity. But elected officials from Astoria, who have been frequent critics of the utility following a 10−day blackout in the neighborhood during July 2006 which left 174,000 residents without power, said Con Ed’s proposal was unreasonable.

“While shareholders in every other company are suffering, what gives Con Ed the right to make sure that their shareholders are prospering?” City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D−Astoria) asked. “If demand goes down, prices don’t go up. That’s not how economics work.”

In May, the utility had proposed a $654 million rate hike for 2009 that would raise the bills of customers paying an average $78.90 per month by 7.8 percent, or $6.18, and increase bills for businesses paying an average $2,338 by 5.1 percent, or $120. Con Ed had also proposed boosting rates by 4.2 percent in 2010 and 3.7 percent in 2011.

The utility recently asked the state’s Public Service Commission to approve an additional $165 million for its proposed 2009 rate hike, bringing the total increase to $819 million.

A spokesman for the PSC said the agency would make a decision on the proposed hike in April. He said the PSC would hold hearings in upcoming months on the utility’s proposal and accept public statements from residents.

State Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D−Astoria) slammed the PSC, accusing it of not protecting consumers in his district.

“As long as the Public Service Commission aids and abets Con Edison’s game, the people of New York will continue to suffer higher rates and substandard service,” he said. “The PSC must demand real reforms of Con Edison now before a single dollar in higher rates is granted.”

The utility had raised its rates 4.7 percent in April. Con Ed had originally proposed a rate hike that would increase bills by as much as 36 percent, but the PSC approved a more modest $425 million increase.

Crude oil prices reached a record $146 on July 3, but had fallen to $67.81 in late October, while the prices for natural gas dropped from $8 per thermal units in September to $6.83 in October.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e−mail at nduke@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 156.

Posted 6:38 pm, October 10, 2011
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