Public urged to fight CL&P fee increase

August 26, 2014

Register Citizen

As state utility regulators prepare for the first of three public hearings Wednesday on a rate hike requested by Connecticut Light & Power, opponents of the increase are seeking to mobilize the public against the plan.

The opponents of the rate increase include advocacy groups like the Connecticut chapter of AARP and Connecticut Consumer Action Group as well as state political leaders. And with Connecticut’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority scheduled to hold its first hearing at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the agency’s headquarters, 10 Franklin Square in New Britain, opponents to the rate hike are urging residents to contact regulators and make their feelings known.

The Berlin electric utility announced in July that it was asking PURA to allow a service charge CL&P customers pay to increase from $16 a month to $25.50 per month.

AARP held a telephone “town hall meeting” Monday to explain to its members why it opposes CL&P’s rate hike request. U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Connecticut Consumer Advocate Elin Katz will hold a press conference Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford to state their objections to the proposed rate increase.

“If you live in a town serviced by Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P) and the company has its way, you’ll end up shelling out more of your hard-earned money to pay your electric bill — with the bulk being charged before you turn on a single light,” John Erlingheuser, AARP’s state advocacy director, said in a written statement. Erlingheuser estimates that if PURA approves what CL&P has requested without any reduction, it will add another $150 per year to the average customer’s bill, with the bulk of the increase coming from a service charge.

State Sen. Joe Markley, R-Cheshire, said Monday he is opposed to the proposed rate increase.

“Our electric rates are already too high,” Markley said in an email to his constituents.

In a written statement released Monday afternoon, Tricia Taskey Modifica, a CL&P spokeswoman, said the request for a rate increase “is driven primarily by expenditures to replace aging infrastructure and strengthen the electric system.”

“Over time, we need to make significant investments to provide our customers with the reliable service they expect and deserve,” Modifica said. “We have also worked hard to hold the line on rising operating costs, as we build an electric system that is stronger, more reliable and more efficient for the future.”

In addition to Wednesday’s hearing in New Britain, PURA will also hold one at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the cafeteria of the Stamford Government Center and on Sept. 3 in New London’s City Council chambers.

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