Assoc. Says NY Consumers Should Be Protected from Automatically Footing the Bill from Storm Costs Statement by Beth Finkel, State Director for AARP in New York StateNEW YORK, Feb. 4, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Hurricane Sandy has come and gone, but New York utility companies are only just beginning to figure out how to pay for any damage and upgrades. With the recently filed $400 million rate hike proposal by Con Edison, one thing is clear: they are looking to New York consumers to foot the bill. AARP is urging the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) to thoroughly examine this rate case to ensure storm costs are not automatically passed on to New York consumers, with the utility bearing no liability. New Yorkers already pay some of the highest utility rates in the nation, and a new AARP report found that older natural gas consumers in the region can expect to pay roughly 20% more this year ( http://bit.ly/VA85sE). Older consumers on limited incomes are hit the hardest as they dedicate a much higher percentage of their household income to paying their utility bills. For the sake of New York consumers buckling under soaring utility rates, the PSC must also take a hard look at Con Edison's programs that aim to help residential ratepayers afford their utility bills. As reported by AARP in 2011 ( The Quiet Blackout: http://bit.ly/W7ig8b), Con Edison terminated service to 93,469 residential rate payers for non-payment – roughly 256 people a day every day. During the winter months, the utility company terminated service to 23,867 people, with the majority of those terminations hitting in January. 80% of state residents surveyed by AARP last year stated they were concerned about their heating and cooling bills going up. In another AARP survey of the Greater New York area's 50+, 86.4% reported losing power due to Sandy and 44% rated their electric utility's response poorly (AARP New York Sandy Survey: http://bit.ly/WYlQ3T). Sandy's toll on New Yorkers was high, and the last thing many need right now is escalating utility bills, especially those individuals on fixed incomes or facing tough economic times. The PSC must ensure consumers do not bear the full brunt of storm-related costs and protect vulnerable ratepayers' ability to keep their lights and heat on.