Brookhaven opposes rate hike from utility company

Brookhaven opposes rate hike from utility company

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine and Councilwoman Jane Bonner. File photo

Long Island residents who go to National Grid for their gas may be paying more come January 2017, but not if the Town of Brookhaven has anything to say about it.

The Brookhaven town board passed a resolution, with a unanimous vote June 30, opposing the company’s proposed rate increase that was announced in January. Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) sponsored the resolution, though all six board members asked to be added as co-sponsors prior to voting.

“This is an outrageous rate hike — it will impose a burden,” Romaine said in a phone interview last week. “We think it’s far too great.”

The increase would cost National Grid’s approximately 570,000 Long Island customers about $160 annually on top of what they already pay, according to a statement from the company in January. The increase would be about 12 percent.

Wendy Ladd, a spokeswoman for the company, responded to the resolution in an email Tuesday.

“We feel our proposals and the costs associated with them are essential to provide customers with safe and reliable gas service, enhance storm resiliency, expand the availability of gas service, help reduce methane, support our neediest customers, and to make the investments required to upgrade and modernize aging infrastructure and grow the system to meet the needs of a 21st century clean energy economy for years to come,” Ladd said.

Romaine said there is a precedent for the town intervening in battles over costs with utility companies. Last year, Brookhaven took on Long Island Power Authority in a similar case.

“LIPA now knows that we, if nothing else, will be watchdogs for the citizens of Brookhaven,” Romaine said.

National Grid New York’s President Ken Daly commented on the matter in January.

“National Grid has invested more than $4.5 billion over the past decade to modernize and build a safer and more reliable natural gas system for our customers. During this period of time, we have also maintained stable delivery rates for our customers,” he said in a statement. “Now, as we respond to the need to invest even more into our aging gas networks and prepare for the future needs of our customers, the investments required to provide this service have increased. The proposals will allow us to accelerate our gas main replacement program, improve critical customer service, and ensure that we have a modernized and technologically advanced natural gas system for our customers and the communities we serve, now and in the future.”

The Brookhaven town board is not against a rate hike altogether, though members said they would like to see it greatly reduced.

The resolution read in part: “the cost of living on Long Island is already astronomical partly due to high utility costs, placing a heavy burden on the residents of Long Island … residents are leaving Long Island in search of better opportunity and a lower cost of living.”

The resolution concluded with the board’s intention to “send a letter in opposition to the proposed rate hikes by National Grid and the Department of Public Service.”

National Grid’s January statement said the rate increases would allow them to significantly increase the gas main replacement program and improve technology in flood-prone areas, among other benefits.

The proposal will be reviewed by the New York State Department of Public Service before it is approved.