Potsdam talk show interviews executive director of Public Utility Law Project
Monday, January 29, 2018 - 2:42 pm

POTSDAM -- North Country Matters has kicked off its fourteenth season with a conversation with Richard Berkley, the executive director of the Public Utility Law Project of New York Inc.

He was in Potsdam recently to put on a workshop for advocates who help low and fixed income residents of St. Lawrence County with regard to utility bills. That workshop was jointly sponsored by the Community Conversation on Poverty and the North Country Energy Task Force.

The Public Utility Law Project (or PULP) helps consumers who need an advocate in their corner and sometimes even legal representation to ensure fair and affordable access to service. That’s where New York’s Utility Project steps in -- making sure consumers are not alone dealing with common problems like getting service, preventing shutoffs, filing complaints, finding energy efficiency programs, and applying for assistance with utility bills.

The YouTube link for this show is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9B1tRTELEo.

In addition to solving problems for consumers, PULP also is involved in major utility rate cases when public utilities in New York Stateask for higher rates. For example, National Grid, which serves consumers in 42 counties in the state, just agreed to a three-year deal that would increase the average residential customer's monthly bill by about 11 percent over three years. By the time the agreement reaches its final year, the typical residential customer would pay about $102 more annually for electricity, according to some analysts.

This agreement applies to the delivery rates that National Grid charges its customers to provide electricity service to their homes and businesses. Those rates will rise by 4.7 percent in the first year and by 5.7 percent in year two and 5.8 percent in the third year. Customer bills also include cost of the electricity consumed, but National Grid passes on those energy costs to consumers without mark-up.

In addition, Berkley discusses how ESCOs (Energy Service Companies) have largely overcharged consumers since energy was deregulated. Out of the 213 ESCOs operating in the state, only 7 have demonstrated that they actually save consumers money. With over $900 million in unpaid utility bills in New York State alone, consumers need protection and advocates when dealing with these companies.

North Country Matters is a local public affairs video magazine now in its 14th year. The NCM civic partners working to educate North Country residents about critical public policy issues facing our region include AAUW-St. Lawrence County, the League of Women Voters of St. Lawrence County, and The Potsdam Public Library. The shows are filmed in the Fred W. Cleveland Computer Center at the Potsdam Library.

Be sure to checkout the NCM Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/NorthCountryMatters/ for additional news and information about the show.

The shows are always available on YouTube. Check the websites for AAUW-St. Lawrence County (http://stlawrence.aauw-nys.org/) and the League of Women Voters of St. Lawrence County (http://slc-leaguewv.org/) for specific program links as they become available.

The NCM Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/NorthCountryMatters/.