July 3, 2014 — AARP and the Public Utility Law Project (PULP) have announced that New York State Electric and Gas issued over 396,240 shutoff warnings in the first four months of 2014, while Central Hudson Gas and Electric issued over 104,600. The advocates say these four-month numbers have increased for the past three years.
While the number of actual disconnections is a fraction of the notices distributed, AARP says it is clear people are having trouble paying their bills. The organization says that ratepayers across New York owe a total of $740 million on their utility bills. Also, AARP says shutoffs tend to increase after May, making the group "fearful" of what may happen in coming months.
There are numerous reasons that households fell behind on their energy bills this heating season. New York experienced both a cold winter and higher energy costs. AARP and PULP also cite the lack of consumer advocates involved in cases before the New York Public Service Commission, with AARP saying, "New York lacks a consumer voice at the table when energy policy is developed, when rate cases are discussed."
New York isn't alone when it comes to households getting behind on their energy bills. Earlier this year, the Illinois Utilities Board reported that over 243,400 accounts collectively owed more than $46 million on their bills. This was a new record and an increase of 40 percent from the previous year.
Sources: Poughkeepsie Journal, LIHEAP Clearinghouse