Spiking utility bills shock NYC residents

Some New York City residents are shocked by their recent utility bills. And a lawmaker from Queens wants to know what is going on. 

State Sen. Michael Gianaris said his office has been flooded with calls from constituents who say their Con Edison bills have shot up, in some cases by up to 300%. He wants the Public Service Commission to investigate. 

Alex Rivera lives in a three-bedroom apartment in Long Island City. He told FOX 5 NY that his Con Edison bill was about $262 in December and then shot up to $746 in January. He assumed it was a clerical error.

"It's a regulated industry, right?" Rivas said. "I mean, this is something that is not supposed to happen fundamentally."

D.K. Guo, who lives in a studio apartment in the same building, said his Con Ed bill went from about $53 in December to more than $104 in January. He also said he thought it was an accounting mistake. 

"Every winter storm, I get Con Ed texts — 'Hey, we're here for you.' What does that mean?" Guo said. "It doesn't mean anything if you're billing me $18.75 per kilowatt all of a sudden when it used to be 6 cents."

In a statement to FOX 5 NY, a Con Edison spokesperson confirmed that the global rise in the cost of natural gas in the generation of electricity has impacted customers' bills.

"Con Edison does not generate electricity nor can we manage the financial practices of the private power generators or the suppliers of the natural gas," the spokesperson said in the statement. "Con Edison is seeking the ability to generate renewable energy in New York State for our customers which would shift our dependence away from natural gas and this volatility."

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Gianaris said he wants answers about the contracts Con Edison has with its suppliers.

"Is that the best we could do? Are there provisions in that contract that protect consumers from these kinds of spikes?" Gianaris said. "What is the Public Service Commission doing about it? These are all questions that remain unanswered."

In a statement to FOX 5 NY, a spokesperson for the Public Service Commission said it does not regulate the prices of commodities and that utilities do not set supply costs and don't make a profit on the supply.

"Additionally, utilities (including Con Edison) use a variety of buying methods and hedges, including short-term and long-term contracts, to get the best prices for customers and offset increases in the cost of supply," PSC spokesperson James Denn said. "This winter the cost of natural gas has increased as the demand for the commodity has increased, exports have increased, and severe weather has hindered production in the Gulf area."