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Kingston and Ulster County residents facing double-digit increase

October 11, 2017 11:30 am

KINGSTON — In June of 2017, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, New Yorkers paid the 7th most expensive electric rates in the United States. Despite New York’s high-priced electricity, in its most recent rate case, Central Hudson is proposing to increase electricity delivery rates by 13.5 percent and gas delivery rates by 18.5 percent.

These double-digit increases will raise the company’s electric revenues by $43 million, and gas revenues by $18.1 million. At the individual household level, these dramatic increases would raise electric bills on average by $8.85 per month (approximately a $106 increase annually), and gas bills on average $14.33 per month (approximately a $171.96 increase annually).

In contrast, in the City of Kingston, 28.8 percent of children under the age of 18 live in poverty, 30 percent of woman-headed households with children present live in poverty, 8.7 percent of senior citizens live in poverty, and another 45 percent of households live between the poverty line and being able to afford their vital monthly bills like heat and power, medicine and food. As a whole, 45 percent of Ulster County residents have significant difficulties paying their vital bills, and this double-digit rate increase will intensify those challenges and increase shutoffs by a company that already terminated 11,304 residential customers in 2016.

There is a vast gap between Kingston’s and Ulster County’s serious unaffordability crises, and their residents’ inability to withstand more negative financial pressure, and the company’s proposed increases. The towns of Newburgh and Cornwall acknowledged this gap in passing a resolution in August opposing the rate increase. State Senator Bonacic and numerous other public commenters in the case also oppose the increases.

As Bobby and Bill Blitzer of Willow say in their public comment “Central Hudson Gas and Electric Corporation: The proposed double digit raise in rates will be a great hardship to us elderly with a fixed income.”

Eileen Kelly’s public comment stated “Dear Secretary Burgess: As a senior citizen on a fixed income and a customer of Central Hudson, I find the latest proposed increase of 13.5% by the corporation to be totally unrealistic and frankly, disheartening. In this environment of uncertain future federal and state tax policy and rates, I am very concerned that New York can no longer be the home for its current senior residents.”

“Once again we are joining with advocates from across the Hudson Valley and New York State to demand that the Public Service Commission consider the needs of our residents and small businesses over those of the shareholders of a multinational conglomerate. Fortis/Central Hudson’s rate request is baseless, misleading, unwarranted, anti-business and anti-consumer. Year after year, they extract more and more of the hard-earned dollars of Hudson Valley residents in the name of corporate profits. It’s time for that to stop once and for all,” said Assemblymember Kevin Cahill (D-Kingston).

“In its last rate case, Central Hudson drove rates higher and sought increased basic service charges (later successfully opposed), which affect low-income, fixed-income and low usage customers more than those who do not try to conserve energy, or who have no trouble paying,” said Richard Berkley, Executive Director of the Public Utility Law Project of New York. “The rate shock caused by this case’s double-digit increases will drive more customers into financial crisis and inability to pay other vital bills, and despite that, Central Hudson is once again seeking increases to basic service charges that will disproportionately affect its vulnerable and conservation-minded customers.”

“Hudson Valley residents can’t afford a double-digit increase in their energy delivery rates that would increase a typical annual utility bill by nearly $300 – especially older residents on fixed or limited incomes. That’s especially true as the price of other necessities such as prescription drugs soars but Social Security cost-of-living adjustments are barely rising. New York must remain affordable, and AARP stands with Assemblyman Cahill and PULP in urging state regulators to reject Central Hudson’s unaffordable proposal.”, said AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel.