In a victory for Consolidated Edison customers, the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) recently ruled that the utility company invest $1 billion to protect its energy delivery systems from climate change without raising rates. The ruling came after Con Edison submitted a request to hike its electric, gas and steam rates to pay for a proposed “storm-hardening” plan, which prompted an intervention from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. Schneiderman found the rate hikes unnecessary and the proposal to be inadequate in addressing the risks posed by climate change.

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“My office played a key role in this proceeding, focusing attention on the real and increasing threat that climate change poses to Con Edison’s infrastructure and, ultimately, its customers,” Schneiderman said. “I am pleased that both Con Ed and the PSC listened, and the company has committed to taking actions necessary to ensure that New Yorkers continue to receive safe and reliable utility service in a time of increasingly extreme weather.”

The ruling also requires Con Edison to participate in an in-depth study of its systems’ vulnerability to climate change. Con Edison’s subsidiary Orange & Rockland was criticized for its response to Superstorm Sandy in October 2012 when around 250,000 customers were left without power for 11 days.

“Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers suffered from Con Ed electricity outages when Sandy hit New York State in 2012. [Thursday’s] ruling by the Public Service Commission is an important step toward ensuring that the widespread power outages left in the storm’s wake will not be repeated,” said Schneiderman.

At $65 billion in damage, Sandy was the second costliest hurricane in U.S. history. Future extreme weather events in the New York City area could be even more expensive and damaging because sea levels could potentially rise up to 31 inches by the 2050s, according to a New York City Panel on Climate Change report.

Via New York State Office of the Attorney General

Lead image via Michael Daddino