The Business Council opposes this legislation that represents a simplified answer to a complex question and potentially leaves utility customers paying significant, uncompensated costs.
This legislation would require utilities to sell their street lighting systems to municipalities at below market prices. This pricing methodology also implicitly requires the utility’s other customers located outside the municipality to subsidize the purchase. Under current law and regulation, the Public Service Commission (PSC) has the ability to facilitate the transfer of streetlight ownership from a utility to municipal. The PSC must review and approve of the negotiated purchase agreement, and must make a determination that the utility customers are not subsidizing the municipal acquisition. As example, Rochester Gas & Electric recently completed the transfer of streetlights to the City of Rochester. The City began purchasing the lights and related poles/infrastructure in the early 1980’s, and in 2010 completed the acquisition of the acquisition of approximately 28,000 streetlights. The PSC reviewed the entire process, to ensure a just and equitable outcome for ratepayers.
Additionally, the bill would require utilities to transfer pole attachment space to the municipality while not requiring the municipality to compensate the utility/pole owner for such attachment space. Such uncompensated taking is improper and illegal. Furthermore utility customers will continue to be reasonable for the upkeep and the property taxes on the streetlights.
If municipalities are interested in acquiring ownership of streetlights, the process should proceed with the oversight of the PSC and pursuant to approved tariffs.
For the reasons stated above The Business Council of New York State opposes this legislation in its current format.