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Consumer advocate officer could be coming to New York

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Updated: 5/21 9:00 pm

ALBANY, N.Y. – A new state office which would advocate for consumers may be established after the New York State Assembly passed a bill.

New York is currently one of the few states that does not have a state run utility consumer advocate.

The bill, which passed in the assembly on Tuesday, comes shortly after high energy bills have angered many customers throughout the Capital Region. The New York Assembly hopes to ease those frustrations by creating the advocacy group for utility customers.

“Currently, New York State is one of the few states that does not have an independent state agency to represent the interests of utility customers,” said Assemblyman John McDonald.

Assemblyman McDonald was a co-sponsor of the bill and says it would seek to help become an advocate between customer and large energy corporations.

"Eventually have a larger impact on lowering costs for the average resident that's the goal, because we want to make sure whatever their household expenses are that we minimize those costs so that they can support the economy in other ways,” he said.

And while consumers are currently represented by the Public Service Commission and Utility Intervention Unit, McDonald said they might not go far enough.

“Having that independent utility which is completely devoid of being involved in anyone else’s interest but the consumer is the best route to go,” he said.

But not all New Yorkers are convinced.

“What would it do other than they would make you feel like they’re doing something but then not be able to,” energy consumer Piper Lutback said.

The PSC would not comment on pending legislation, and National Grid said it is too early in the process to comment.

The bill still must make its way to the New York State Senate and be signed by the governor before it would take effect. McDonald said the advocacy group would be formed next year if the bill passes.

An AARP report from January shows that in fiscal year 2012, Connecticut's Office of Consumer Counsel saved customers $730 million on their bills.

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