State regulators approved the final proposal in a 7-to-1 vote after months of negotiation with the utility. Rory Christian, the chief executive and chairman of the PSC, said during the final Thursday vote that he believes the hefty increases “strike a delicate balance.”
“Very rarely does everybody get what they want in negotiation and I think in this instance that applies,” said Christian. “Looking at where the utility started, we’ve significantly reduced the impact … and though we recognize affordability, we also recognize we need to maintain the system—we need to keep it going—and this rate case will help do just that.”
New Yorkers are already charged some of the highest prices for electricity in the U.S., and in recent years have experienced jumps in their utility bills. Con Ed, which initially proposed higher increases, argues that the fees are necessary for the utility to reliably maintain service for its customers and to upgrade its infrastructure to meet future need.
“With today’s approval from the PSC, Con Edison can further support New York’s transition away from fossil fuels by investing in the electric grid to accommodate increased demand as New Yorkers electrify their vehicles and the heating in their homes and businesses,” Tim Cawley, chief executive and chairman of Con Ed, said in a statement.
The utility says the new revenue will be spent on improvements to service and to make the energy grid more resilient against severe weather, and will also support the state’s clean energy mandates.
But some critics take issue with the utility’s plans to also invest millions into its existing fossil fuel systems, and say those efforts run counter to state climate law that requires the grid to fully transition to renewable energy by 2040.
Meagan Burton, senior attorney with environmental advocacy group Earthjustice, described the PSC’s ruling as “disappointing.”
“This violation of the climate law is unacceptable, especially at a time when our communities are dealing with oppressive heat waves, deadly flooding, and dangerous air quality,” said Burton. She slammed the PSC for “locking in costly investments in fossil fuel infrastructure for the coming decades and ignoring the needs of vulnerable New Yorkers” who may struggle to afford the increases in their bills.
Tracey Edwards, the only commissioner to vote against the proposal, said the rate hikes were still too high despite being negotiated down.
“I cannot get past that the company originally asked for way too high of an amount to then get to this end result,” Edwards said during the vote. “I believe that if they had come in at a much more just and reasonable initial starting point we could somehow have had an even better result.”
Mayor Eric Adams’ administration tepidly backed the proposal. Deputy Mayor Meera Joshi said in a February filing to the state that the city supported the plan due its “significant savings” for New Yorkers compared to Con Ed’s original proposal, which sought to raise rates by an estimated $11 for electricity and $38 for gas per month for this year alone.
Three dozen City Council members bucked the mayor’s support and penned a letter to the state earlier this month urging Gov. Kathy Hochul to reduce the increases. But the Adams administration remained firm in its support for the hikes.
“Make no mistake—despite the significant savings achieved from Con Edison’s original proposal, these rate increases hurt,” the mayor’s office said in a previous statement to Crain’s. “If there was a way for Con Edison to deliver the services New Yorkers count on, upgrade their facilities to 21st-century standards and prepare for a clean energy future without raising their rates, we would have demanded they do so.”