National Grid, the primary natural gas provider on Long Island, has proposed an increase in delivery charges to fund upcoming projects.
The rate change would amount to a $198 rise for the average gas customer’s yearly bill, resulting in a $146 million increase in annual revenue for National Grid.
The gas company is seeking to fund upgrades to its pipe system, a discount program for low-income customers and expansion of service to other areas.
The New York State Public Service Commission held a public hearing on the proposal on Tuesday at the Nassau County Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola.
Nassau and Suffolk County residents voiced their opinions on the proposed rate change, which will considered by the commission.
Thomas Gallagher, of East Meadow, voiced his disapproval of the rate increase, citing a ripple effect in prices.
“You have to understand what they plan to do is going to affect many people,” Gallagher said. “The price of pizza is going up because they have to use gas to cook the pizza. Homeowners who are paying rent, the rent is going to go up in homes. Many people cannot afford to live here in Long Island if all this keeps climbing up.”
The AARP associate state director of New York, Chris Widelo, spoke at the hearing on behalf of the seniors his organization represents.
“AARP believes this rate increase is too high, and should be rejected by the Public Service Commission,” he said. “We believe that this rate increase will threaten the affordability and essential natural gas service for vulnerable customers.”
There are 280,000 seniors in Nassau County, 10 percent of whom are low-income, Widelo said.
“Any increase in utility rates must take into account that there is such a large percentage of low-income seniors in this region,” he said. “Rates must be designed to maintain the affordability of basic services. AARP believes that anything short of this would be unacceptable.”
On the other side of the argument, one man said that the projects proposed by National Grid would have a positive impact on the environment.
Neal Lewis, executive director of the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College, said that replacement of old pipes in National Grid’s gas delivery system would prevent greenhouse gases like methane from leaking from old pipes.
“We think it’s very important that this work be carried out, the replacing of old pipes,” Lewis said. “In addition to presenting a safety hazard, it is also an environmental concern.”
If approved, the rate increase would be the first rise in delivery charges by National Grid since 2008. National Grid serves approximately 567,000 customers in Nassau and Suffolk counties.