Long Islanders react to the proposed residential gas hike, saying "things are so expensive already." Credit: Newsday

National Grid is proposing to hike average residential gas bills by $28.52 a month next year, citing increased costs for materials, contractors and property taxes.

The increase would raise total residential heating bills for gas by just over 16% beginning next April. Customers who use gas primarily for non-heating purposes such as cooking would see a $15.41 monthly increase, or 24.8%. For commercial heating customers the average bill would increase by $70.55 a month, or 10.8%. Multifamily accounts would see an average monthly increase of $300.80, or 11.4%.

In all, National Grid is seeking to increase revenue from Long Island customers by $228 million over the year ending March 31, 2025.

The company is requesting larger rate increases for its New York City customers, seeking to increase revenue from rates by $414 million.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • National Grid is proposing to hike average residential gas bills by 16%, or $28.52 a month, next year, citing increased costs for materials, contractors and property taxes.
  • In all, Grid is seeking to increase revenue from Long Island customers by $228 million over the year ending March 31, 2025.
  • The Department of Public Service, which will scrutinize the request, noted that the rates the state eventually approves are 'nearly always dramatically lower than what is requested.'

Customers aren't happy.

"It's hard to see how they justify the 16%," said Charles Comer, a Port Washington ratepayer. He called the $28.50 a month a "meaningful" increase for most consumers, especially as all other costs are increasing. 

The increase "seems excessive," he said. "It's hard to believe that National Grid's costs are going up at that rate." The prospect that the commodity portion of bills also could spike if the upcoming winter is a cold one is also "a worry for many, on top of the proposed delivery cost rise," Comer said.

One consumer group was quick to criticize the proposed rate hike, noting that it comes even as 51,000 of National Grid’s approximately 600,000 Long Island customers are 60 days or more behind on their bills.

“New York has an energy affordability crisis already, and this potential rate hike would exacerbate that,” said Andrew Saavedra, a legal aide at the Public Utility Law Project of NY, in a statement. “Rate increases of these magnitudes have a devastating impact on ratepayers, in particular low- and fixed-income households, and are unreflective of the financial realities of the current economic climate.”

PULP said it intends to “fully participate in this rate case to advocate for the needs of vulnerable households,” and it urged the state Department of Public Service to “carefully consider the full breadth of potential the impact these increases will have on consumers and work towards a solution that will benefit everyone.”

National Grid, in an April 28 letter to DPS formalizing the rate request, said the proposed bill increases were “largely driven by a combination of inflation and cost factors beyond National Grid’s immediate control.” Among the factors  were increases in “core business” expenses, safety and regulatory compliance costs and property taxes, which the company said make up nearly 37% of the Long Island increase.

Other increased expenses included environmental remediation, energy efficiency programs, higher interest rates and “other non-controllable costs.” The company said it’s working to “identify efficiencies” to reduce certain costs.

In addition to covering increased costs, the rate proposal also includes increases for programs such as energy efficiency, low-income discounts and plans to “aggressively repair gas leaks to drive further emissions reductions.” National Grid said affordability programs will be funded with with $86 million in low-income bill credits on top of $70 million a year for weatherization and related programs to "help customers reduce usage."

James Denn, a spokesman for the Department of Public Service, said utility rate cases are “scrutinized as part of the statutorily required 11-month review process to ensure customers and customers’ interests are fully protected.”

“State regulators pour over the utility’s books to identify ways to cut costs,” Denn said. “Nothing about a utility’s rate case is taken for granted or assumed. For the major electric and gas utilities, the approved rates after this process are nearly always dramatically lower than what is requested.”

Volatile natural gas prices have whipsawed local customers over the past two years. Last fall, National Grid said it expected winter heating bills to jump $299 during the past heating season, but a warmer winter and moderating prices helped quell some of those costs.

As of May, a unit of gas, known as a therm, stood at just over 31 cents, a drop from a September high of $1.08.

The proposed rate increase follows the state's approval of a National Grid gas rate hike for Long Islanders in 2021. That three-year rate plan, which was sharply lower than National Grid's original request, kept bills steady in the first year, then hiked them by an average of $5.40 during the latter two years of the plan.

Those with problems paying their bills can call National Grid's helpline at 800-930-5003.

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