RIDGE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A recent electric rate hike is hitting some Long Islanders harder than others.
Rates and fees went up less than $7 per month to start 2017 for the average customer, but as CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, some customers whose consumption is way above average are calling for change.
Retiree Gail Powell keeps part of her small condo at a bone-chilling 40 degrees, rotating which room she heats.
If she were to warm the whole apartment, she says, “then you’re going to pay close to $1,000 a month.”
Powell is one of thousands at Leisure Village with sky-high electricity bills, because their senior community is completely powered by all electric — even for heat and cooking.
The facility was built on the hope that the Shoreham nuclear power plant would provide cheap electricity, but the plant never opened. So when electric bills go up, like they did last week, the seniors there are hit the hardest.
“We are being squeezed by having to pay outrageous utility bills here on Long Island,” resident Mary Ann Fox said.
“We can’t at this moment pay for our food, our medication and keep warm,” Carol Leonard, of Leisure Village, said.
They’re demanding a new state utilities advocate with the power to challenge rate and fee hikes.
“States that have it — 40 of them — save their residents billions of dollars,” Leisure Village Condo Manager Gail Blair said.
But PSEG said there’s already oversight in the form of the Public Service Commission and LIPA, and the recent power supply hike was dictated by global fuel costs.
“The customer is ultimately in control of how much they use. So very minor changes can result in big savings on their bills,” Jeff Weir, with PSEG Long Island, said.
Leisure Village has already upgraded siding, roofing and lighting. They say what they need is more of a voice.
“We don’t have the right type of oversight. We need someone who can distance themselves from the large oil companies and energy companies and really focus on the consumer,” Suffolk County legislator Sarah Anker said.
A bill to establish an independent utilities advocate has failed in the state legislature for the past four years. Seniors at Leisure Village plan to inundate their lawmakers with calls and letters to finally get it approved.
According to AARP, Long Island has the third highest electric rates in the contiguous United States.