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NIMO RATE INCREASE IS UNFAIR TO CUSTOMERS

I applaud The News editorial urging the Public Service Commission to renegotiate Niagara Mohawk Power Corp.'s proposal to pass along its volatile wholesale electric prices to its customers.

The competitive marketplace envisioned by the 1998 agreement between the PSC and NiMo has failed to materialize. Rates were supposed to go down. Instead, New Yorkers' electric rates have risen astronomically since the governor's failed deregulation scheme was implemented. Our comparable standing has worsened as electric rates have soared from 62 percent above the national average in 1996 to 70 percent above the national average in 2000.

Residents and businesses are already suffering from a weak upstate economy and can ill afford any rate increases. Public hearings to critique this proposal and to quantify its effects on the upstate economy would have been helpful. I, along with 13 Assembly members and two senators, sent the PSC a letter requesting public hearings regarding the proposed rate increase. We were rebuffed.

Because a market has not materialized, a market charge seems most egregious. NiMo's customers have been left without a safety net and have been forced to ride an electric commodity roller coaster, thus leaving the company's customers unprotected in an unregulated, monopoly-controlled setting.

Instead of taking our comments and reasoning into consideration, the PSC approved NiMo's request for a 7.9 percent rate hike for residential customers, which went into effect Sept. 1.

In light of a request before the PSC regarding the proposed acquisition of NiMO by National Grid, these issues will resurface. I urge readers to contact Gov. George Pataki and the PSC.

PAUL D. TONKO

Assemblyman, 105th District
Albany

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