New York lawmakers want utility bills to be more predictable

State lawmakers this week advanced a measure that’s meant to give more predictability to people when they are paying their utility bills. 

The bipartisan proposal would codify in law a requirement that utility companies in the state perform actual meter readings unless they are unable to gain access due to circumstances beyond their control, like extreme weather. 

The legislation is meant to address the month-to-month fluctuations in utility costs for New Yorkers due to the use of estimated billing. 

Lawmakers in the Democratic-led state Senate this week unanimously approved the measure backed by state Sen. Michelle Hinchey.  

“No matter who you are, a single parent or a senior on a fixed income, you should be able to budget effectively from month to month, not have your savings account unexpectedly drained by an inaccurate utility bill, as we’ve seen happen to countless Hudson Valley community members,” Hinchey said. “Utility companies are using estimation formulas that are not based on past usage, making it impossible for New Yorkers to afford, let alone trust, their utility bills. My legislation to ban the practice will help ensure that this never happens again while bringing needed transparency and accountability to the utility industry as a whole in New York.”

Lawmakers approved this bill as utility costs this summer have skyrocketed amid the ongoing war in Ukraine and rising inflation. State officials have also been closely watching utility costs in the Hudson Valley, where costs have spiked this winter. 

The measure approved this week also requires the Public Service Commission to create an estimation formula that would be used by utilities as an industry standard. It would also limit the number of times estimated billing can be used to three billing cycles a year. 

Regulators at the commission would have to develop the formula by Nov. 1 of this year. 

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