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NYSEG files request to raise electrical & gas rates

BUFFALO, N.Y. — NYSEG's rate plan with the State of New York expired last month. While rates will remain stable for the next year, the rate increase NYSEG is hoping to secure for electrical delivery is significant: 23.7 percent.

If approved, the new rate would go into effect in May 2020.

Documents filed with the state show 23.7% will amount to an additional $10.17 a month, bringing the average monthly bill to more than $53.

In its submission to the Public Service Commission, NYSEG did include figures which show the average bill for their electric customer is the lowest, compared to the average bills of the other six investor-owned utilities in New York.

The proposed rate hike for power delivery would give NYSEG an additional $157 million in revenue.

How do they plan to use that money?

In their letter to the state, NYSEG claims the additional revenue will pay for new meters, improvements to their electrical grid, but most would be used to manage trees and other vegetation encroaching on power lines and other infrastructure.

In an e-mailed statement to 2 On Your Side, Carl Taylor, President and CEO of NYSEG said, "This rate case represents our deep commitment to modernizing the grid. NYSEG and RG&E cover the largest energy territory throughout the state and much of that infrastructure is nearly a century old. It is absolutely critical that we harden the infrastructure to combat increasingly severe and unpredictable weather. We believe that this rate case will provide the necessary resources to better serve our customers."

Power companies in New York faced a lot of criticism in 2017 and 2018, not just from customers but also from the Governor; for poor storm response, lack of communication, and thousands of lingering outages.

"We expect a better level of service than we have been getting from the utility companies," said Governor Andrew Cuomo during a press conference in March 2018.

Shortly before that, Governor Andrew Cuomo had demanded an investigation of the state's major utilities.

It was just last month that the New York State Public Service Commission announced the completion of the Department of Public Service investigation.

They assessed the companies for their preparation and response to five major storms that "swept through New York in 2018, each leaving more than 100,000 customers without electricity."

Shareholders of the utilities faced financial penalties for failing to comply with their state-approved emergency plans.

But in a settlement to avoid penalties, NYSEG agreed to shift just over one million dollars of shareholder funds to make improvements; such as more effective event response prioritization, greater electric system resiliency, enhanced storm response capabilities, faster restoration of critical facilities, improved communications between the companies and customers having life support equipment, and improved wires-down procedures.

On April 18, the Commission also directed state lawyers to bring an enforcement proceeding in State Supreme Court to address recurring violations by these companies.

In terms of the proposed rate plan, NYSEG customers could also pay more for natural gas. The utility requested a gas delivery rate increase of 1.9 percent (which amounts to an additional dollar a month) to pay for increased operational and management costs.

The Public Service Commission will review the request over the next 11 months. During that time, there will be a number of opportunities for public comment and for concerned parties to file in opposition to the rate increases.

"Our number one priority is ensuring that all New Yorkers have access to safe, affordable, reliable and clean energy services," said New York State Department of Public Service spokesperson, James Denn. "Utility rate cases are the forum in which the PSC rigorously assesses proposed rates to ensure they are fair and reasonable. The 11-month public review process will closely review this initial proposal."

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