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NY's Con Ed seeks $400 million in rate increases

Jim Fitzgerald, Associated Press

Con Edison is requesting an extra $395 million from electricity and gas customers next year, in part to pay for measures to protect it from disasters like Superstorm Sandy.

The utility was sharply criticized in the aftermath of Sandy, when 975,000 of its customers in New York City and Westchester County lost power. Tens of thousands of them were still out after 10 days.

The company said Friday it plans to invest $1 billion over the next four years in storm protection work, including building walls around low-lying facilities; burying some wires so they can't be taken down by falling trees; and making some equipment submersible so it survives flooding.

It said it would also reconfigure its underground network so that smaller areas can be shut down when flooding is anticipated.

Con Ed said some of the $1 billion might come from federal funds.

In a letter to the state Public Service Commission, which will rule on any rate increase, Con Ed President Craig Ivey said the improvements "are intended to reduce the size and scope of service outages from major storms, as well as to improve responsiveness and expedite the recovery process."

The company said it would provide customers with more accurate, individual estimates of when their power would be restored.

Spokesman Mike Clendenin said Sandy cost Con Ed an estimated $350 million to $450 million. It was, by far, the worst storm in the utility's 120-year history.

Con Ed said that if its entire increase is granted, electric bills would go up by an average of 3.3 percent. Gas bills would go up 1.3 percent. For the average New York City customer, that translates to an extra $2.91 a month for electricity and $2.67 for gas, the company said.

The company's 1,750 steam customers will be getting a 10.1 percent decrease.

Ivey said the overall rate request reflects cost-cutting at Con Ed.

"Although the economy is improving, we are still working diligently to hold down costs for our customers," he said in a news release. "At the same time, the increased frequency and damage of storms assaulting our area presents a major challenge."

A call to the PSC was not immediately returned.