Hammered by Yet Another PSEG Bill Spike, Long Islanders Look to Albany for Help

AARP Says 6th Straight Increase Could Be Just the Tip of the Iceberg, Utility Watchdog Needed Before Another Rate Case

Feb 28, 2014, 16:26 ET from AARP New York

NEW YORK, Feb. 28, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The threat of higher home heating bills this winter from Long Island's PSEG no doubt has many wondering how they'll keep up as utility prices continue to soar. PSEG's sixth straight monthly increase in its power supply charge to Long Islanders, which, as energy prices soars, has helped double and even triple some residents' utility bills since December, has Island residents  looking to Albany for a lifeline.

According to an AARP survey of Long Island's 50+ voters last winter, 27% said it was difficult for them to pay their electric bill. The Association – with Long Islanders comprising the highest concentration of suburban AARP members in the United States - says that with heating bills doubling and tripling this winter, the group's stress and worry is no doubt much higher.

AARP says an independent utility consumer advocate to represent residential consumers and intervene in rate hike proceedings before the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) – which will decide on potential PSEG rate increase requests starting as soon as next year - could help ratepayers get a fair shake and save on their utility bills. More than three quarters of respondents to the AARP survey - 76.7 percent - said they back an independent utility consumer advocate. The Association believes the status quo of the uneven playing field between Long Island ratepayers and LIPA must end.

"Long Islanders are already buckling under the cost of the very basic necessity of staying warm this winter. Higher home heating bills force those on fixed incomes, particularly the elderly, to make hard and sometimes unhealthy choices – prescriptions or heat, groceries or heat," said Beth Finkel, State Director for AARP in New York State. "People are looking to Albany for relief right now. An independent utility watchdog to give consumers a seat at the table and the ability to push back when utility companies press for higher rates is an idea whose time has come."

70 percent of those surveyed said they felt their elected officials weren't doing enough to help with rising energy costs, and more than 73 percent said they believe their interests aren't even taken into consideration when utility companies like PSEG push for rate hikes. With 40 other states already providing their residents with an independent utility consumer advocate, New York is lagging behind.

Establishing such an independent advocate is one of AARP's top priorities in New York this legislative session.

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AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of more than 37 million, that helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities, strengthens communities and fights for the issues that matter most to families such as healthcare, employment and income security, retirement planning, affordable utilities and protection from financial abuse. We advocate for individuals in the marketplace by selecting products and services of high quality and value to carry the AARP name as well as help our members obtain discounts on a wide range of products, travel, and services.  A trusted source for lifestyle tips, news and educational information, AARP produces AARP The Magazine, the world's largest circulation magazine; AARP Bulletin; www.aarp.org; AARP TV & Radio; AARP Books; and AARP en Español, a Spanish-language website addressing the interests and needs of Hispanics. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to political campaigns or candidates. AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity of AARP that is working to win back opportunity for struggling Americans 50+ by being a force for change on the most serious issues they face today: housing, hunger, income and isolation. AARP has staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Learn more at www.aarp.org.