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Fuel Adjustment Charge Slaps Ratepayers In Faces

A piece of legislation introduced this week in the state Senate should become law quickly during the next state legislative session.

State Sen. Chris Jacobs, R-Buffalo, wants to bring some transparency to the costs born by local utility ratepayers for state clean energy programs like the Clean Energy Standard, Reforming Energy Vision program, energy efficiency programs, Renewable Energy Credits, Zero Emission Credits, subsidies to nuclear power facilities or subsidies to hydroelectric, solar and wind projects. It’s likely programs created as part of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act will be paid for the same way. Currently, many of the costs for those programs are paid either through the state budget or through a Fuel Adjustment Charge, an innocuous sounding term that actually means “state programs that ratepayers have to pay for against their will.”

The Fuel Adjustment Charge on at least one Jamestown Board of Public Utilities bill from a recent month amounted to almost 36% of one user’s electric bill. Shouldn’t that ratepayer be given a breakdown of how that household’s hard-earned money is being spent? The Public Service Commission doesn’t think so. Two years ago, the commission was given an opportunity for the state’s Clean Energy Standard to be given its own line item on utility bills statewide, but commission members decided they didn’t want utility bills to be too confusing and directed the state to take the money through the existing Fuel Adjustment Charge.

Jacobs said utility ratepayers are smart enough to be able to read and understand their bills if programs are given their own lines on a utility bill. We agree. There are only two ways to take the state’s desire to hide the cost of these programs. Either the state doesn’t want you to see how much it is taking from your bank account each month, or state officials really think its residents aren’t smart enough to read a breakdown of a Fuel Adjustment Charge without being confused. Either way, the state’s desire to hide these costs is a slap in the face to those paying for its climate policy.

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