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Schumer to PSC: Reject National Grid rate hike request

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer wants the New York State Public Service Commission to reject a potential request by National Grid to increase delivery rates.

The Democrat from New York says executives at National Grid are seeking a rate hike for electric and natural gas consumers in the North Country and across upstate New York. The increase would take effect in 2012.

Schumer says National Grid is calling for the rate hike at the same time the company is reporting a 25 percent increase in pre-tax profits.

According to Schumer, North Country residents are already paying some of the highest electricity and gas rates in the nation. He wants the Public Service Commission to "swiftly reject" National Grid's upcoming proposal.

"For almost a decade, electricity prices far above the national average have been a burden to ratepayers and a yoke around the neck of economic development efforts in upstate New York so this proposal must be stopped in its tracks," Schumer said, adding that state officials need to send a "loud and clear" message to National Grid that additional rate hikes won't be tolerated in New York.

According to Schumer, reports surfaced last week that the power company will seek to boost prices upstate starting next year. This comes on the heels of a $119 million rate increase earlier this year - an increase that executives with National Grid have deemed "inadequate."

National Grid's upstate electric prices are already among the highest in the nation, Schumer says. In 2008, the federal Department of Energy revealed that residential electricity rates in northern New York were 37 percent higher than the national average. Commercial rates were some 60 percent higher.

Last year, Schumer sought an investigation of National Grid's billing practices for its upstate sector following reports that questionable fees were being used to pay for a company executive's wine collection and another employee's washing machine repairs.

Schumer notes that since National Grid assumed responsibility for Niagara Mohawk's debt in 2002, New Yorker have been forced to shoulder the burden of what's known as a "competitive transition charge."

The debt was supposed to be paid off by this year, triggering a significant decrease in electricity payments.

Instead, Schumer says National Grid is looking to boost delivery rates by some 20 percent, meaning no relief on power bills is on the horizon.

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