Council Passes Utility Advocate Bill

Image credit: New York City Council.

On July 14, 2022, the City Council voted in favor of creating an Office of the Utility Advocate. The new office will receive communications from utility customers, conduct outreach, and represent customer interests at public hearings like utility rate cases. For CityLand‘s prior coverage of this legislation, click here.

A day prior on July 13, the Committee for Consumer and Worker Protection voted to advance the utility advocate bill to the full council for a final vote. Council Members Velázquez, Abreu, Farías, Krishnan, Menin and Ossé unanimously voted in favor, while Council Members Bottcher, Brewer and Won were absent.

Originally sponsored by Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, the passed legislation was amended significantly from its original form. Most notably, the Office of the Utility Advocate was originally intended to operate under the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP). However, DCWP representatives previously testified before the Committee that 311 utility complaints were not under their immediate jurisdiction. The Committee instead determined that the mayor should create the new office.

Although it will be created by Mayor Adams, the amended legislation does not specify a particular agency where the Office of the Utility Advocate must operate. Instead, the office will be established either within a Mayor’s Office or within any city agency where the Mayor already appoints the head. If it is established within a Mayor’s Office, the office’s director will be appointed by the Mayor directly. If it is established under another city agency, the office will be led by the head of that agency.

The Committee’s amended legislation contains a few additional changes, such as the start date of the Office. While the original text called for the law to take effect 120 days after its passing, the updated version established the current start date of September 1, 2023. The legal definition of “utility” was also narrowed in committee. Cable, internet, telephone, and water customers were originally meant to be included under the Office’s reach, but the final text defines “utility” as “electric, gas, and steam service in the city”.

Additionally, four resolutions considered alongside the utility advocate bill were all passed by City Council through a voice vote. The first three called on NYS to prevent utility rate cases from exceeding a certain percentage each year, expand relief programs to assist City residents struggling with utility bills, and add Commissioners to the Public Service Commission, with NYC appointing two. A fourth resolution called directly upon Con Ed to improve customer communication.

By: Cassidy Strong (Cassidy is a CityLaw intern and a New York Law School student, Class of 2024.)

CC: Stated Meeting (Int. No. 372-A, July 14, 2022)


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.