Rep. Deborah Ruggiero today announced that she is opposing the rate hike National Grid is proposing for its gas customers in Rhode Island, saying the utility needs to be more resourceful and creative rather than add to the public’s burden as the pandemic drags on this winter.

“Just about everyone else, from families to businesses to government at every level, is using their creativity to get through this crisis as best we can, tightening our belts and, in many cases, cutting some slack to those who are struggling. National Grid needs to work with Rhode Islanders and create a plan to mitigate these costs. Now is the wrong time to add to the heavy burden being carried by many Rhode Islanders. Not only are many people out of work or underemployed as a result of the pandemic, but the expensive winter months are coming and electric rates have already increased,” said Representative Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown) in a press release shared by the Rhode Island General Assembly.

National Grid has asked the Public Utilities Commission to approve rate increases totaling 7.3% effective Nov. 1, which would raise the average customer’s annual gas bill by about $93 annually. The proposed increases would be a utility rate double-whammy for most gas customers, since National Grid, by far the state’s dominant electrical supplier, already raised its electric rates effective Oct. 1. The increase from 8.3 cents per kilowatt hour to 10.4 cents, raises the typical electric user’s bill by $10.78 a month.

While expected higher wholesale supply costs are behind the proposed rate hike, Representative Ruggiero pointed out that the PUC does have the power to defer part of a proposed rate increase, so customers pay for the increased costs gradually over more time. The PUC has not exercised that option since 2014, but Representative Ruggiero is strongly urging the PUC to do so now.

“If ever there was an appropriate time for the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to defer a proposed increase, this is that time,” said Representative Ruggiero. “This rate increase would hit as Rhode Islanders enter the ninth month of the pandemic and the resulting economic slowdown, and as winter approaches. Increases like this force struggling people into impossible decisions about necessities, to the real detriment of their health, safety and wellbeing. I urge the Public Utilities Commission to use the power it has to protect Rhode Islanders from this one-two punch of utility hikes this winter.”

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