NY Public Service Commission Undermines CLCPA By Approving ConEd Proposal That Increases Investment In Fossil Fuels And Hikes Customer Rates
The Commission’s decision fails to protect ratepayers and takes a step backwards on the state’s goals of customer cost savings and reducing dependence on fossil fuels
The Pace Energy and Climate Center (Pace), represented by Earthjustice, is disappointed that the NY Public Service Commission declined to comply with the state’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). We urge the Commission to step away from a business-as-usual approach to managing energy and transition to a clean energy economy. The decision to raise residential customer rates while spending ratepayer dollars on fossil fuel infrastructure that will last for decades betrays the public interest.
While New York state leads the nation with groundbreaking laws and policies to combat climate change and transition to a clean economy, the Public Service Commission (PSC) approved a proposal last week by Consolidated Edison (ConEd) that ignores the aggressive greenhouse gas emission cuts required under the CLCPA and prioritizes utility profits over customer needs. ConEd’s proposal will increase residential customers’ rates, reduce incentives to save energy, and result in the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in fossil fuel infrastructure. The PSC’s decision to approve expanding ConEd’s use of fossil fuels further raises barriers to transitioning energy infrastructure to meet the CLCPA’s mandate to aggressively cut greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2030 and 85% by 2050.
“Our state’s Public Service Commission is required to comply with the CLCPA,” said Meagan Burton, Senior Associate Attorney with Earthjustice’s Northeast Office. “Approving ConEd’s rate hike and increased investment in fossil fuel infrastructure with no mention of the Commission’s obligations under the new law is in clear disregard of the legislature’s command that all state agencies act consistently with aggressive cuts to New York’s greenhouse gas emissions.”
Pace expressly opposed ConEd’s proposal and argued that the company’s investments will grow dependence on fracked gas, and that its residential rate structure will reduce incentives to conserve energy, which are both completely inconsistent with ratepayer interests and the state’s climate and clean energy priorities. By approving the proposal, the PSC is allowing over $2 billion to be spent over the next three years on gas infrastructure in ConEd’s service territory, which flies in the face of the state’s legal requirements to reduce fossil fuel use across the board. In addition, the PSC’s adoption of ConEd’s residential rate design — resulting in New York residents paying higher customer bills — increases costs for ratepayers who already pay some of the highest customer rates in the country, reduces customers’ ability to manage their bills and ignores the particularly harsh effect increasing energy costs will have on low-income residents in the New York City area.
“Utilizing a customer rate increase to fund fossil fuel infrastructure directly conflicts with New York State law. The CLCPA was set in place not only to advance the use of clean and renewable energy, but also to protect low-income communities that are disproportionally affected by the greenhouse gas emissions caused by the use of dirty and outdated energy sources,” said Radina Valova, Pace’s Senior Staff Attorney.
The Commission’s decision fails to protect ratepayers and does not comply with the CLCPA. New York State is on a clear and legally-binding path to quickly transition to a fossil-fuel-free future that the PSC and state-licensed utilities cannot be permitted to ignore.
Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people's health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.