July 7, 2021
Assembly Passes Legislation to Establish the Office of the Utility Consumer Advocate
Speaker Carl Heastie today announced that the Assembly has passed legislation that would create the state Office of the Utility Consumer Advocate to represent residential utility consumers’ interests in residential and utility matters at the state and federal level (A.3184, Dinowitz).
“New Yorkers deserve an independent state agency that represents the interests of residential utility customers,” said Speaker Heastie. “This legislation will empower consumers by creating an agency that is able to act solely on behalf of the interests of consumers.”
“Utility providers as well as large commercial and industrial customers have an active presence in state and federal regulatory and judicial review proceedings regarding rates and conditions of public service utilities,” said Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee Chair Nily Rozic. “However, there is a glaring lack of input from any parties representing consumers. This legislation helps protect consumers and ensures that they have someone in their corner.”
“New York is one of a few states, and by far the largest, without an independent office to represent utility customers,” said Codes Committee Chair Jeffrey Dinowitz. “Natural disasters such as Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee have shined a light on the need for real representation for consumers when it comes to utility services. My legislation will help establish that representation and has the potential to save New Yorkers billions of dollars in averted rate hikes and improved service reliability.”
“AARP New York commends the leadership of Assembly Speaker Heastie and Assemblyman Dinowitz on this issue in the New York State Assembly,” AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel said. “Residential utility customers need more independent voices at the table to ensure that consumer issues are heard and acted upon in a process that is largely dominated by utility companies.”
This bill would create the state Office of the Utility Consumer Advocate to serve as an independent advocate and appear on behalf of New York consumers in state and federal regulatory proceedings, as well as judicial review proceedings concerning rates and conditions of public service utilities. Currently, consumers in New York are represented by the Public Service Commission as well as the Utility Intervention Unit, a division of the Department of State. Neither of them are able to act solely on behalf of the interest of consumers.
The utility consumer advocate would be appointed by the governor to a six year term. The legislation also requires an annual report from the Office of the Utility Consumer Advocate to the governor and the Legislature, which would be made available to the public.
Currently more than 40 states and the District of Columbia have an independent state agency that represents the interests of residential utility customers.