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NYSEG's Request To Boost Rates Criticized At Hearing

ROCHESTER, NY (WXXI) - More than 50 people filled Rochester City Council chambers midday Tuesday to share their feelings about a proposed rate increase for RG&E and NYSEG customers.

If approved, an average NYSEG bill would go up about $11, while an average RG&E bill would go up about $4. Representatives from Avangrid, the parent company of both utilities, told the crowd that the increases are needed for maintenance and infrastructure improvements.

Tera Cain, a parking attendant from Rochester, doesn’t buy that.

“You people are all rich and you don’t care about us!” said Cain. “You don’t care if our electricity gets cut off or not! You don’t care if our kids are in the dark!”

“This decision is already made,” Cain added. “They’re just doing this just to have something to say. They have come in public to announce something, but it’s not our decision at all.”

Michelle Phillips, a New York Public Service Commission representative, said there’s a long way to go in the process. She said Avangrid’s requests will be investigated rigorously, and a decision will be made by April. The legal requirement is to complete these requests in under 11 months.

“They’re looking for support for any proposals that are made both by the company and by interveners and staff as to the just and reasonable rates that should be set for these utilities and for them to provide just and adequate service,” said Phillips.

Richard Berkley is the executive director of an Albany-based nonprofit called Public Utility Law Project, which helps people with low incomes understand their rights surrounding utilities. Berkley said this proposed increase would make things harder on them.

“Rents are not going down. Life is becoming more expensive. And the company is asking for increases, even the low increases are many times the rate of inflation,” said Berkley.

He also said the requested rate increases are not set in stone.
“The company may say, ‘We need this much money now for this,’ but if you look at it objectively, you say, ‘Well, they may need all that money, but they don’t need it all in year one. Some of it may be five years from now.’ And the result of that is that the ask that the company is making goes down.”

More public input sessions on this matter are scheduled in Ithaca, Binghamton and the Adirondacks in the next week.