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LIPA/PSEG rate hikes spur protests by seniors

Hundreds of seniors gathered in Ridge, on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, to protest LIPA/PSEG rate increases.  The $7.57 increase in average bills starting this month is about twice what LIPA had previously estimated for the increase, which includes green energy sources and system upgrades. Credit: Steve Pfost

As Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo prepares a State of the State speech in Farmingdale Tuesday that could mention an offshore wind farm for LIPA off the Rhode Island coast, hundreds of seniors will gather in Ridge to protest LIPA/PSEG rate increases, some tied to renewable energy.

Green energy advocates are banking on Cuomo to announce a 15-turbine wind farm on Tuesday to help meet a power shortage projected for the South Fork, where summer vacationers have pushed energy needs to new heights.

The Long Island Power Authority, which announced the wind farm in July, has said the comprehensive energy project for the South Fork, including the wind farm and more than $500 million in transmission upgrades, will cost the average resident about $2.48 more a month upon completion in the 2020s.

Seniors at Leisure Village, Leisure Knoll and other retirement communities in Ridge will be gathering before the Cuomo speech to protest an unexpected $7.57 increase in average bills starting this month. The increase for January is about twice what LIPA had previously estimated for the increase.

“I’m questioning everything they [LIPA and PSEG] are doing,” said Suffolk County Legis. Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai).

Anker said it was time for an electric utility consumer advocate to independently fight for ratepayers. “Why is it that we’re finally using less energy, and we’re paying more?” Anker asked.

Also, a group called Stop the Cuomo Tax will be holding a rally in Nassau Tuesday to urge the governor to end his plan to provide an estimated $7.6 billion in ratepayer funded subsidies for four upstate nuclear plants. Cuomo’s plan is projected to increase LIPA bills an average of about 1 percent a year, or $2 a month.

PSEG spokesman Jeff Weir said the company has new programs to provide “long term rate stability for all our customers.” Weir acknowledged that “customers who use all-electric heat have higher bills in winter time,” and said PSEG has “ a number of resources to help them reduce their monthly bill year-round.”

Carole Leonard, president of the Leisure Village Association, said she and other seniors want LIPA to create a special discount rate for seniors whose homes are all-electric. She also wants the state to appoint an independent senior advocate to fight for seniors’ electric utility issues.

“He’s not listening to us,” Leonard said of Cuomo. “I’ve written him a letter and asked him to come down and meet with us. I got no response.”

A spokesman for Cuomo didn’t respond to a message seeking comment.


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