AARP Helps Its Members Keep Their Lights On
In an example of local grassroots advocacy, the association is helping Long Island’s 50+ population push for an independent utility consumer advocate office, which could protect the area’s residents against rising utility rates.
A busload of Long Island senior citizens, supported by AARP, took to the New York state capitol last week to voice their concerns over the future of the local power authority.
AARP members spoke out about the Long Island Power Authority’s (LIPA) handling of electricity outages after Superstorm Sandy and expressed their support for an independent utility consumer advocate office in the state.
According to the AARP, New York is one of only a few states without this type of office. It would work to protect consumer interests during prolonged power outages and if LIPA is privatized, which New York Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed in his State of the State address in January.
Although it is uncertain whether privatizing LIPA would cause prices to rise, some estimates predict double-digit rate increases for subscribers, said Bill Ferris, AARP New York state legislative representative.
Ferris said utility concerns are of considerable interest to AARP members, who report that these services are becoming less and less affordable.
“We have 600,000 AARP members living in Long Island,” Ferris said. “We know from our research that older persons use the same amount of energy as younger people, but paying their utility bill consumes more of their income.”
AARP has not taken a position on whether LIPA should privatize, but such a change should not affect utility costs, Ferris said.
After Superstorm Sandy, the association polled New York residents age 50 and older and found that 44 percent said electric utilities did a poor job in the days and weeks following the storm. The same survey found that 77 percent of respondents support the creation of a utility consumer advocate office.
“AARP is working to ensure that any action regarding LIPA or other utility company in New York truly balances the needs of utility companies with those of the consumer,” Will Stoner, AARP associate state director for Long Island, said in statement. “Long Island ratepayers deserve a fair deal in any plan that moves forward to improve LIPA. A utility consumer advocate office levels the playing field for all New York consumers and helps ensure the interests of residential consumers are at the table.”