1. The electricity system as currently structured has a negative impact on many people's lives
2. The campaign represents a clear expression of socialist values
3. Private utilities are a strategic target in the broader fight against climate change
When utilities want to raise electricity rates, they have to open a legal proceeding with New York’s Public Service Commission (PSC), the entity that theoretically regulates all utilities in the state. This proceeding is called a rate case.
In the spring of 2019, Con Edison filed a rate case seeking delivery rate increases of 8.6% and 14.5% for electric and natural gas service, respectively. The NYC DSA Ecosocialist Working Group filed to formally become a party to this rate case in order to accomplish three goals:
In the summer of 2019, New York City suffered a series of historic blackouts and shutoffs. The loss of power during the summer’s hottest months threw the injustice of our current energy system into stark relief: black and brown communities, already more vulnerable to the compounding impacts of power loss and intense heat, were hit disproportionately by the blackouts and shutoffs.
Con Edison had already been given $350 million to upgrade the substation that would have prevented this problem and chose instead to line its shareholders’ pockets. The Ecosocialist Working Group canvassed and held town halls in areas that had been hit by power loss, drawing a clear connection between the injustices and inequities of the shutoffs to the larger struggle for a public utility.
As the idea of public power began to take shape, we began organizing with groups across New York State to imagine what statewide changes to our electric utilities could look like. We had already begun working with Brooklyn legislators on bills that would expand public renewable energy generation and begin the process of moving our distribution grid into public control.
However, without robust statewide participation, we would not have the analysis necessary to understand how public power could work in different parts of New York. We would also never be able to pass these bills without support from every part of the state.
To this end, the statewide Public Power NY Coalition was formed in November 2019 and began a collaborative and intense process to determine how public power legislation could meet the needs of many different parts of the state. We also began planning out a statewide series of “Energy 101” events that we could use to educate the broader public about how our energy system currently works and how it could better serve New Yorkers under a public system.
The process of honing our legislation was still ongoing in March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic caused all of our plans for educational events to be suspended.
As a result of the pandemic, many New Yorkers lost their jobs, and the lack of leadership at the federal and state level meant that there was little support for people struggling to make ends meet. As summer approached, we were afraid that people would lose their power if they were unable to pay their energy bills.
We fought for an immediate stop to electricity shutoffs and a cancellation of utility debt. The state officially declared a moratorium on shutoffs, but energy debt still remains a burden for many low-income New Yorkers.
We are continuing to work with the statewide coalition to push for public power. We are also calling on Governor Cuomo to raise taxes on the wealthy - we know that austerity is the last thing we need to get through this crisis.
We have been holding public events and trainings to spread the word about our demands, and have honed our legislative demands into two complementary bills, which we will be organizing to pass in 2021.
Please join and support our work!