More than 80 people gathered in a cul-de-sac in Yorktown last Friday waving their latest electric bills to protest prohibitive rate hikes imposed by Con Edison over the past month.
The protest in Jefferson Village, a 1,000-unit age-limit condominium community, was organized by Yorktown Supervisor Matt Slater, fellow city council members and Assemblyman Kevin Byrne (R-Mahopac ) and Colin Schmitt (R-New Windsor).
“The fact is, New York State has led us into an energy crisis that is creating a financial emergency for families with crippling electric bills for seniors on fixed incomes and small businesses,” Slater told the crowd, which included many residents of Jefferson Village. “The state is out of touch and crazy.”
Slater withheld the month-long electricity bill of $6,538 received by Mario Mancini, the owner of A&S Pork Store & Fine Foods on nearby Hill Boulevard, an increase of about $2,000 from the month previous.
“A bill like this is a big push for small business owners like Mario here,” Slater said. “We have to go after them. We cannot let this happen.
Residents of Westchester have seen their electricity bills triple from about six cents per kilowatt hour to 17 cents, Con Edison spokesman Jamie McShane said.
“The increase in costs in January was related to weather, supply (of natural gas) and consumption,” McShane said. “People have used a lot more energy in a time when the price of natural gas has gone up, which is way beyond our control.”
About two-thirds of New York’s electricity is generated by five of the state’s 10 largest power plants, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Natural gas prices are directly related to electricity rates in New York.
Con Edison’s electricity prices are among the highest of any major utility in the continental United States, the EIA said. The utility charges for the supply and delivery of electricity and taxes.
McShane added that the consumer rate hikes are due in part to Con Ed’s $2.5 billion property tax in New York.
“They pass the cost of energy onto our consumers,” Byrne said at the protest. “That has always been the response from utility companies.”
Byrne said when Indian Point closed last year, promises were made to replace electricity with natural gas, a promise that is now costing consumers money.
“The price of natural gas is a big reason why the cost of energy has become so high,” he said. “Washington needs to do better.”
Agreeing with Byrne, Yorktown Councilman Tom Diana blamed the Indian Point closure for the rate hikes.
“It was the far-left environmentalists who pushed for the plant to be closed,” Diana said.
According to the 2017 expiring contract between the New York Power Authority, Con Edison and the owner of Indian Point Entergy, the twin nuclear plants contributed only 5% of the region’s electricity.
Yorktown City Council sent letters to the Public Service Commission (PSC) asking the New York State Special Counsel for Taxpayer Protection to investigate the massive rate hikes and oppose Con Edison’s request for an 11.2% increase in electricity rates as well as an 18.2% hike. for gas, both proposed for 2023.
A further request has been made for the PSC to hold a public hearing at Yorktown Town Hall so that North Westchester ratepayers can confront utility officials.
Last week, Governor Kathy Hochul and the PSC urged Con Edison to review its billing practices and be more transparent with New Yorkers.
“The extreme increases in utility bills we’re seeing across the state come at a time when New Yorkers are already struggling financially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Hochul said.
During last Friday’s protest, Louise Bartoli, a 17-year-old Jefferson Valley resident, saw her electric bill triple.
“It’s outrageous,” she said.