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New York American Water's Lynbrook district faces possible 12.5 percent rate hike

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New York American Water customers in the Lynbrook service area are likely to face a double-digit rate hike in April, but the utility is working with state officials to spread the impact over three years.

Last March, NYAW received approval from the  state Public Service Commission to delay a planned 12.5 percent hike for Lynbrook-area customers amid a state investigation into the utility’s rate increases and heated public hearings. The increase was part of a four-year rate plan that was approved by the PSC and took effect in 2016. The hike was set to take effect last April 1, but was pushed back by the PSC to April 1 of this year.

The upcoming rate increase could range from 12.5 to 21 percent. It has not been set, according to Lee Mueller, NYAW’s external affairs manager.

“New York American Water’s rates are dependent on a petition that has been filed with the New York Public Service Commission,” Mueller said in a statement.  “. . . New York American Water asked for the rate change to be spread out over three years to moderate the rate increase for customers.”

NYAW is bound by law to announce planned increases four weeks before they take effect. Mueller said the decision by the PSC  whether to spread the rate hike out is expected in early March, at which time NYAW will update customers on how much the increase will be. The PSC is considering many options to mitigate the rate spike, which will be disclosed no later than early March, officials said.

“The PSC has taken every action possible to minimize any rate increase to the maximum extent possible, and it will continue to seek do so in future,” said John Chirlin, director of media communications for the Department of Public Service. “In regard to the latest filing, the commission is considering various options . . . No decision has been made in this regard.”

The pending sale of NYAW to Liberty Utilities will not affect the rate increases. In November, the company announced the $608 million sale, which is expected to be finalized this summer. NYAW serves nearly 120,000 Nassau residents across three districts: Merrick, Lynbrook and Sea Cliff, while Liberty, a sub-utility of the Ontario-based Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp., owns and operates water, wastewater and energy utilities in 14 states, serving over 800,000 customers.

State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat from Long Beach, said he believed the pending sale was an opportunity to halt future rate increases. “American Water has been systematically raising rates and delivering subpar service for years, but I am working hard to stop this latest increase from being approved and am optimistic,” Kaminsky said. “Soon this utility will cease operating [on Long Island] and that gives us an opportunity to secure real pricing relief with whoever takes over.”

Lynbrook Mayor Alan Beach said it was “ridiculous” that the utility was imposing another rate hike. He also noted a letter he wrote to Gov. Andrew Cuomo in October, in which he suggested a cap on the hikes, adding that he was still pushing for it. “I implore the governor to impose a 2 percent cap on utility increases, such as the water company,” Beach said, “just like the 2 percent cap he imposes on town and village taxes.”