The Public Service Commission recently announced that it had decided to defer a 27 percent rate hike for New York American Water customers in the Lynbrook service area in April and opted for a 6 percent increase, or $2.01 a month.
The PSC said in a statement that had it not taken such action, NYAW would have begun collecting for two years of increases, or more than $21 million, from Lynbrook customers on April 1. The decision “postpones” collections of some surcharges until the PSC can review the matter against a pending acquisition. New York American Water is to be acquired by Liberty Utilities for $608 million, and the sale is expected to be finalized by the summer.
In a statement, NYAW President Lynda DiMenna said the utility was grateful for the commission’s review and subsequent decision.
“New York American Water respects the commission’s decision regarding the levelization surcharge as we voluntarily asked to moderate the rate increase for customers,” she said. “The orders have been issued and will be carefully reviewed by the company, and we will provide advance notification to customers on rates, as approved by the 2017 rate plan, that will go into effect on April 1, 2020.”
NYAW representatives also said that despite the reduced rate hike, it would still be able to “move forward with critical infrastructure investment and the roll-out of new technology that will allow customers better visibility of their usage and more control over their bills.”
Last March, the utility received approval from the PSC to delay a planned 12.5 percent hike for Lynbrook-area customers amid a state investigation into NYAW’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. Before the PSC reached a decision on a 6 percent increase, customers faced a potential increase from 12.5 to 21 percent.
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. By law, the utility must notify residents 30 days before any increases are implemented.
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat from Long Beach, has pushed for the reduced rate and bemoaned the hike. “While the burden on Lynbrook residents could have been worse, these rate hikes are still out of control, and this company needs to be held accountable,” he said. “People deserve access to clean water and fair rates and I won’t let up until rates are rolled back to a reasonable level.”