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Consumer Groups Praise PSC Affordability Effort As "Major, Unprecedented Step"

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Contacts: Erik Kriss, ekriss@aarp.org, David Irwin, dirwin@aarp.org

Joint Statement by AARP, NYPIRG, Consumers Union, Public Utility Law Project:

ALBANY, New York – “By opening a proceeding to review and standardize energy affordability programs, the Public Service Commission (PSC) is taking a major and unprecedented step that could help millions of utility consumers across New York State.

“New Yorkers pay among the highest average residential electric rates in the continental United States. Consumers’ struggles are evident; every day, New York utility companies shut off power to more than 200 customers unable to afford their bills. Over a million customers fell behind on their utility bills last year.

“Energy affordability is critical to New Yorkers and is completely compatible with the goals Governor Cuomo and PSC Chairwoman Zibelman articulated in their ground-breaking ‘Reforming Energy Vision’ (REV) proposal of modernizing and decentralizing the state’s power generation and distribution system, encouraging clean energy and conservation, lowering power costs and spurring economic growth.

“We are anxious to start working on this issue to highlight the needs of those struggling to pay their bills, high rates of termination and arrears, and the lack of an independent advocate to challenge rate hikes.

“We commend Chairwoman Zibelman for her leadership and her concerns about the ability of New Yorkers to pay their energy bills. We look forward to working with her and the Commission staff to develop an energy affordability blueprint for use in all future rate cases.”

- Beth Finkel, State Director of AARP for New York State

- Russ Haven, Legislative Counsel, New York Public Interest Research Group

- Chuck Bell, Programs Director, Consumers Union

- Gerald Norlander, Executive Director, Public Utilities Law Project (New York’s Utility Project)

BACKGROUND

- More than 1 million customers of New York State investor-owned utilities were over 60 days past due paying their utility bills as of August 2014.

- New York's investor-owned utilities issued more than 7 million final termination notices to their customers in the 12 months from September 2013 to August 2014 - 8% more than the prior year and 30% more than in 2005.

- New York's investor-owned utilities terminated the accounts of over 265,000 customers in the 12 months from September 2013 to August 2014 - 8% more than the prior year.

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AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of more than 37 million, that helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities, strengthens communities and fights for the issues that matter most to families such as healthcare, employment and income security, retirement planning, affordable utilities and protection from financial abuse. We advocate for individuals in the marketplace by selecting products and services of high quality and value to carry the AARP name as well as help our members obtain discounts on a wide range of products, travel, and services. A trusted source for lifestyle tips, news and educational information, AARP produces AARP The Magazine, the world's largest circulation magazine; AARP Bulletin; www.aarp.org ; AARP TV & Radio; AARP Books; and AARP en Español, a Spanish-language website addressing the interests and needs of Hispanics. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to political campaigns or candidates. AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity of AARP that is working to win back opportunity for struggling Americans 50+ by being a force for change on the most serious issues they face today: housing, hunger, income and isolation. AARP has staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Learn more at www.aarp.org .

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