Brookhaven officials announced Thursday that the town is seeking permission from the New York State Public Service Commission to intervene on PSEG Long Island’s pending application to the commission for a rate increase.
At a press conference, Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and councilmembers Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), Dan Panico (R-Manorville) and Neil Foley (R-Blue Point) expressed their concerns about the increase in the delivery charge portion of customers’ bills — a nearly 4 percent bump each year for three years — set to kick in next year. The officials said they believe PSEG Long Island hasn’t adequately justified the increase, which would have a “devastating impact,” on Long Island residents.
“We want to make sure that our voices are heard — the ratepayers in Brookhaven Town are heard,” Romaine said.
By legally intervening, according to attorney Rob Calica, of Garden City-based law firm Rosenberg Calica & Birney LLP, town officials would have access to filings and documents that are otherwise not public.
“If the town doesn’t intervene, it’s a commenter,” said Calica, who the town retained to handle the matter. “The comment period is closed. If the town doesn’t intervene, the records that are unavailable for public review remain unavailable. If the town intervenes, it elevates its status from commenter to a party.”
The utility stated in its proposal that it would invest in maintaining and modernizing the electric system; enhancing technology for managing customer accounts; improving infrastructure to better prepare for and respond to storms; and improving system reliability.
The town joins Suffolk County Comptroller John M. Kennedy Jr., who asked to act as an intervener in an April 10 letter to the New York State Department of Public Service, the department which contains the commission.
According to PSEG Long Island’s application, the three-year increase will amount to an approximate $221 million increase in revenues.
In his letter, Kennedy called it questionable to give “that excessive amount of money” to a “quasi-governmental entity that is supposed to be a leader in management performance, yet decides to increase the average residential customer’s bills when its own employees live and work on Long Island.”
This is the first time in more than 20 years that Long Island’s utility provider has had to submit a rate plan to the Department of Public Service, as required by the LIPA Reform Act of 2013, which also put the Long Island Power Authority under the management of private company PSEG Long Island. The department assigned administrative law judges to hear the case, on which Long Island residents commented at public hearings held throughout March.
Brookhaven officials and Kennedy said they also took issue with the fact that the utility’s proposed increase does not have to follow any cap that other public institutions, like governments and school districts, have to abide by, referring to the state’s tax levy increase cap. Romaine said PSEG Long Island should have to comply with and be held to higher standards.
“They are a public authority no different than the Town of Brookhaven,” he said.
In an email, Jeff Weir, PSEG Long Island’s director of communications, said the organization is proud to have the most transparent rate proceeding that local customers have ever seen.
“We believe the modest increase that we are seeking in our filing will allow us to continue to create a more resilient, modern and customer-responsive electric utility,” Weir stated. “We welcome the opportunity to continue to have constructive, open dialogue regarding our request.”