Brooklyn Boro

National Grid rate hike hits NYC customers with bill for Gowanus Canal, Newtown Creek cleanup

National Grid: Increase ‘fair and reasonable’

December 16, 2016 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn, Staten Island and Queens customers will be stuck with National Grid’s entire $715 million cost to clean up the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek (shown above) in a rate hike approved Thursday by the Public Service Commission. Eagle file photo by Cody Brooks

On Thursday the Public Service Commission approved a hefty rate hike for National Grid that will increase gas bills for customers in Brooklyn, Staten Island and part of Queens by roughly nine percent a year for three years, adding up to about 28 percent by the end of the three year period. Rates will also go up in Long Island.

A National Grid customer with a house in Cobble Hill told the Brooklyn Eagle that their gas bill currently amounts to $30 a month in the summer and $200-plus in the winter, averaging $119 a month over 12 months. A similar bill was reported by a homeowner in Bay Ridge.

According to the New York Power and Light blog, a typical National Grid gas heating customer in Brooklyn pays about $99.85 per month. This will increase to roughly $128 a month after the three-year phase-in.

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The rate hike, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, saddles National Grid’s NYC customers with all of National Grid’s clean-up cost of the Superfund sites at Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek.

National Grid assumed the clean-up liability when it bought KeySpan and Brooklyn Union Gas.

The increase had been opposed by numerous officials and organizations, including NYC Public Advocate Letitia James, state Sen. Kevin Parker, state Sen. Jesse Hamilton, Brooklyn’s Assembly delegation, the City Council’s Black Latino and Asian Caucus and Progressive Caucus, the nonprofit Public Utility Law Project of New York (PULP), AARP, and the Working Families Organization.

“The impact that this rate hike will have on my constituents is enormous,” state Assemblymember Joseph Lentol said in a statement. “The rate increase coupled with the fact that this money is being used to clean up the Newtown Creek, which a large portion of my district borders, is essentially re-victimizing my constituents.  The Public Service Commission is wrong in its decision and is proving that it represents the corporate community more than the citizens of New York.”

Councilmember Steve Levin, whose districts includes both Superfund sites, said, “The cost of cleaning up our community should not fall on the backs of ratepayers. We already face some of the highest energy costs in the nation.”

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In a joint statement, AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel and PULP Executive Director Richard Berkley said their organizations are “extremely disappointed” with the increase.

“State regulators for whatever reason — and in a break with precedent — chose to saddle ratepayers in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island with the entire $715 million cost to clean up pollution in and around the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek resulting from operations by now-shuttered utility facilities,” Finkel and Berkley said. “Shareholders should pay at least part of the bill for the anticipated superfund investigation and remediation costs caused by National Grid subsidiary Keyspan-owned facilities in the area that are no longer in operation.”

They added, “This liability was known at the time of the purchase of these companies by National Grid, and it’s simply not fair to impose its costs on current ratepayers.”

National Grid said in a statement on Thursday that it believes the increase is fair.

“We believe today’s unanimously decision by the New York Public Service Commission achieves a fair and reasonable outcome for our customers and stakeholders. After a decade of rate stability, the new rate plans levelize bill impacts by spreading costs over three years, provide $3 billion worth of investment to modernize our gas infrastructure in New York City and Long Island, create a safer, more reliable and accessible gas system, enhance storm resiliency, help reduce methane emissions, better support our low-income customers and local communities and fund 380 new positions to support customers’ needs,” the company said.

In testimony submitted to the Public Service Commission, PULPNY testified the Superfund sites’ remediation costs could be “potentially overwhelming,” especially since National Grid has no incentives to keep the clean-up costs contained.


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