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Senior Citizens Hit Hard By High Electric Rates In New York City

Con Ed Says It Is Trying To Keep Rates Down, But Stats Show Alarming Trend

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The numbers are in. New Yorkers are dishing out double for what most of the country pays for electricity. And if Con Edison gets its way, the rates could jump even higher.

As CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell reported Tuesday, the rate hikes are hitting one segment of the city’s population — namely seniors — particularly hard.

For Azure Bourne, it came down either to buying groceries or paying for her electricity. So her Con Ed bill went unpaid, and the lights went off.

“I had a $700 bill,” said Bourne, of the Upper West Side. “It was over a period of months, and I just didn’t have enough to pay it.”

Wendy D’Lugin said even in her rent-controlled studio, her Con Ed payments are the highest bills she has during the summer, “which is a fortune, and this is not a big apartment,” she said.

Even more difficult for D’Lugin and others over 50 is hearing that what they pay as Con Ed customers is 102 percent higher than the average electric bill across the country.

“I think it’s criminal,” said Sydney Fox of the Upper West Side. “Over the last year or two, my bills have increased at least 20 percent.”

Dave Irwin, spokesman for AARP, said seniors are being put in a position where they sometimes cannot afford their electric bills.

“They spend a higher percentage of their household on utility costs than any other demographic,” he said.

Irwin said an AARP study shows across the nation, power rates are declining. But in New York, the trend is just the opposite.

Most spend, on average, 12.8 cents per kilowatt hour. But in New York, it is nearly 26 cents per kilowatt hour, and those pennies add up, Irwin said.

“These are, we think, highly startling numbers,” he said.

Con Ed officials declined speaking with CBS 2 on camera. But in a statement, they told CBS 2 they try to keep prices down.

“Con Edison does not control 65 percent of a customer’s bill,” the utility said in the statement. “We also operate one of the world’s most complicated and highly reliable energy delivery systems.”

But over the last two years, Con Ed shareholders have pocketed a 9.5 percent return. And now its leaders are asking for $400 million rate increase, which may mean customers’ bills will be going up.

“Apparently, there’s no end in sight,” Fox said.

There is also little chance of electric rates going down.

The AARP supports the creation of a consumer advocate officer for utilities, which they believe will help prevent the cost from increasing significantly.

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