The PSC yesterday issued an Order extending the time to resolve the pending Con Edison electric, gas and steam rate cases to January 23, 2014 because a non-unanimous proposal being negotiated by active parties in the case is imminent. See Con Ed rate case running late amid settlement talks.
At the end of the public hearings in the case several months ago, Con Edison was defending its filing of electric and gas rate increases, the PSC trial staff was arguing that significant general rate reductions are feasible, and the Utility Project was arguing to reduce rates more for low income customers.
Secret settlement talks have been underway for months to resolve the rate cases. The cases were taken off the litigation track, and the administrative judges who heard weeks of testimony did not issue a Recommended Decision. In litigated cases, after the recommendation of judges on each issue in dispute, parties can file exceptions with the PSC before the PSC decides the case. In the settlement process, the PSC tends to defer to the recommendation of the parties who agree to settle.
The PSC suspension period extension order and a December 9 Scheduling Order of the Administrative Law Judges set the current timetable:
- December 31, 2013 is the date for submission of a Joint Proposal by settling parties,
- January 9 is the date for parties to submit papers for or against the Joint Proposal,
- January 13 is the date for a hearing on the Joint Proposal,
- January 16 is the date for a PSC meeting which might consider the Proposal,
- January 23 is the last date of the suspension period which suspended Con Edison’s rate increase pending PSC action.which is December 31, 2013.
December 31, the date the settlement is to be filed, is the last day of the New York City Bloomberg Administration. In the past, the administration of Mayor Bloomberg has entered into multi-year rate case agreements with Con Edison to implement major rate increases. Mayor-elect DiBlasio takes office the next day, January 1, 2014.
New York state has the highest electric rates in the nation, except for Hawaii which burns oil to make electricity. Con Edison’s rates are higher than the rest of the state, including Long Island, and higher than any other major utility in the nation.
This is causing hardship to lower income New Yorkers:
- Con Edison customers who are behind more than 60 days in making payments owe more than $300 million to Con Edison, which is a drag on the local economy. Lower rates could help reduce household debt and free up household funds for spending in the local economy.
- More than 200,000 Con Edison customers are threatened with shutoff for nonpayment every month.
- About 80,000 customers a year are shut off as a bill collection measure, sometimes with disastrous consequences.
Governor Cuomo, commenting on the Con Edison rate case, has said “lowering rates whenever feasible, is critical to supporting our economic recovery and creating jobs in the region.”