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Towns protest Orange and Rockland rate-hike request

“Towns protest Orange & Rockland rate-hike request” by Hema Easley
Times-Herald Record — February 12, 2015

About a dozen municipalities have passed resolutions opposing a proposed rate increase by Orange and Rockland Utilities, or have written to the state Public Service Commission urging it to deny the request.

The PSC is reviewing O&R’s request to increase electric rates by 6 percent and natural gas by 19 percent. If approved, O&R seeks to have the new rates become effective Nov. 1.

A typical residential electric customer would see an average increase of $8.13 per month, to $143.99 from $135.86. The overall bill for a typical residential natural gas customer would rise on average by $26.18 per month, to $163.38 from $137.20.

“We hope you will agree that the increase currently before the Public Service Commission is excessive and would cause a hardship for many of our area residents, businesses, and municipalities,” Otisville Mayor Brian Wona told the PSC in a letter.

Joining the opposition are Warwick, Tuxedo, Chester, Port Jervis, Woodbury, Deerpark, Highlands, Monroe, Goshen and Greenwood Lake, among others. Middletown is expected to vote on a similar resolution on Tuesday. Some state lawmakers have also let the PSC know of their opposition to the rate increase.

The PSC declined to comment other than to say that a rigorous 11-month review was underway to ensure that O&R’s electric and gas rates remain just and reasonable.

An O&R spokesman said it isn’t unusual for elected officials to weigh in when public utilities propose rate increases.

“This activity is a normal part of the rate-case review process,” Michael Donovan said. “The PSC is currently conducting an intensive examination of O&R’s request. Part of that examination is soliciting and evaluating the views of the public and its elected officials.”

The public utility is seeking the rate increases to fund new construction and upgrade communication technology. It also plans an Advanced Metering Infrastructure system, integrating communication networks and data management to reduce the cost of reading meters and billing inquiries. It also wants the rate increase to cover rising property taxes.

The commission will hear testimony from experts in the field on March 20. Rebuttal will be offered April 10, and an evidentiary hearing will begin May 4. Public hearings will be scheduled in the coming months. No date has been set for a decision.

Posted in General, News.