EASTCHESTER, N.Y. – Following widespread power outages caused by Hurricane Sandy and long delays in power restoration, Con Edison has proposed a 3 percent rate increase to offset the cost of storm-hardening its system.
The proposal has drawn the ire of politicians in Eastchester and Scarsdale.
Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale) and Congressman Eliot Engel (D-Bronx) each expressed their displeasure about the plan, which would result in $400 million in rate increases as part of a plan that calls for $1 billion in investments through 2016 to prevent another situation like Sandy.
Paulin, the recently named chair of the Assembly Standing Committee on Energy, said Con Edison should ensure customers that all money raised through rate increases should be put back into the community.
“Any investments and improvements that are made to the infrastructure should not overburden the consumer,” she said. “In addition, there should be a guarantee that any additional funds collected from the rate increase should be devoted solely to improving the infrastructure.”
The proposed rate hike would be the smallest since 2004. An average customer in Westchester would see an increase of nearly $4, from $114.41 to $118, each month.
Con Edison President Craig Ivey said the company has remained cost conscious, but with the increase in violent storms, the increase is necessary.
“Although the economy is improving, we are still working diligently to hold down costs for our customers,” he said. “At the same time, the increased frequency and damage of storms assaulting our area presents a major challenge. We must invest in our systems in new ways to maintain the safe, reliable service our customers deserve.”
Storm protection measures include reconfiguring network boundaries to separate flood and non-flood areas, hardening facilities with new walls and flood barriers and relocating certain overhead lines underground. Equipment will be upgraded to withstand flooding and gas valves will be installed to protect customers’ equipment. All improvements are expected within three years.
The request for a rate increase has to go through the state Public Service Commission, and, if it is approved, it will go into effect in January 2014.
Engel expressed disappointment with the proposal, arguing that customers shouldn’t be forced to pay for the improvements.
“Con Edison has some nerve asking New Yorkers to help them foot the bill for their incompetent preparation and inexcusable response time,” he said. “It was a disgrace for the company to be unable to respond properly, especially after Hurricane Irene exposed their inadequacies a mere 12 months earlier. Instead of digging deep into their own profits, they fall back on their old operating methodology of making the victim pay.”