Under The Radar - High Light Bill Tour


 By Francis White

Have you ever heard of the game Russian Roulette? You know the one where there is one bullet placed in a revolver, and each participant in the game spins the bullet spinner before each of them take a turn at pulling the trigger of the gun while its aimed at their head? That’s sort of what it’s like when many of us have to decide between energy costs/paying utility bills and buying other life necessities like food.

The energy crisis in America is very real and it’s not going to away any time soon. Like many of the other crises in America, the stakes are particularly high for the poor, communities of color, and other marginalized communities. If some people have the power and organization to weather the storm, there are many, many more of us who’ll have to activate extreme survival mode.

As we have seen with oil and gas, energy is a big deal. Oil and gas are two finite sources of energy, which means they are not renewable – they could run out at any time. So understandably, the control of oil and gas sources has become extremely political. There have been wars waged over it in our lifetime

Organizations like PUSH have been fighting the energy crisis locally since the National Fuel Gas campaign. This battle has evolved into doing energy democracy/climate change work at the New York State, and national levels.

The next chapter in the movement happens this Thursday October 1st when representatives of National Fuel Gas,‪ National Grid - the largest providers of home heating services and ‎electricity in the BuffaloNY/‪‎Niagara region, and the Public Service Commission (NYS energy regulators) bring their Public Statement Hearings on Energy Affordability for Low Income Utility Customers tour to Buffalo NY. We’ll get to tell our stories about how we here in the Buffalo NY area have had to cope with surviving with very high utility bills. I’ve also heard that Utility Pimpin will be in close proximity and that he’s quite scarred about all of this.

The whole energy business in America like many other important life sustaining, but money making industries, is just one big bureaucratic game. It is designed that way by the people running it to keep people like us from asking questions, and from potentially upsetting a big money making process. There are processes, laws and regulations that they don’t want you to know about because that could keep them from raking in billions in excessive profits. Gluttony is one of the Seven Deadly Sins, and unchecked power will keep feasting and hoarding energy dollars until it explodes.

The NYS Public Service Commission is taking this act on a few city tour. The Public Statement Hearings on Energy Affordability in New York are scheduled to happen or has happened already in several New York State cities. Through statewide and national community organizing efforts, the Public Service Commission has decided to go to a few places to hear what people have to say, and collect public statements on why their electric bills are too high and what must be done to stop them from being so high.

Another issue to consider when dealing with energy Affordability is climate change. There was a Climate Justice rally in Buffalo last week and others across the country to coincide with the Pope’s U.S. visit. This Pope that currently sits in power at the Vatican has gone on public record about the world needing to seriously consider and deal with the effects of climate change, and how this is affecting our ability to survive. Is there a relationship with high utility bills and the makings of a new water world? As many environmental advocates have promoted, we won’t really know until we put this on the table along with everything else.

Energy Affordability means a lot of things; it means that 100 solar panels promised to residents living in Buffalo’s Fruit Belt neighborhood (near the new corporate, mega, hospital, university research institute called the Buffalo/Niagara Medical Campus) could be incorporated into a neighborhood microgrid system, potentially giving these residents some community control over a source of energy they need to in order to survive. An electricity generating system the residents own would give them some ability to have much lower light bills, and not leaving them to suffer at the whims of a big corporation whose bottom line is making dollars and not about ensuring the survival of people. It means that maybe more money needs to be placed into the HEAP program or a another fund created all together to help people cover the costs of paying their utilities.

If you’re still struggling with high utility bills in Buffalo like I am, I think you should get your butt on down to this thing on Thursday. There’s a press conference at 1:30pm down in front of the main Public Library at 1 Lafayette Square in downtown Buffalo, and there’s early and evening comments sessions, so if you have to work and you want to still tell your story you can. It all happens inside the library’s auditorium, you can find out exact information here.