Blumenthal seeks federal review of CL&P charges

Senator Richard Blumenthal

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal called on federal energy regulators Tuesday to review what he calls a “humongous” increase in the fixed residential charge imposed by Connecticut’s largest electric utility, Connecticut Light & Power.

“The unwillingness or inability of state regulatory agencies to effectively reign in these fixed charged increases should prompt federal review or action, if necessary,” said the Connecticut Democrat, who appeared at a news conference with State Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz at the Legislative Office Building.

Blumenthal is the latest public official in Connecticut to blast a recent decision by state regulators allowing CL&P to increase its monthly charge from $16 to $19.25. CL&P originally sought a $25.50 charge. Some state legislators recently announced they hope to pass legislation in the new session that imposes a cap on such charges.

“The fixed rate increase is humongous and horrendous. It’s part of a nationwide trend,” said Blumenthal, who asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chairman, in a letter sent Tuesday, to review both CL&P’s fixed rate charge as well as those imposed by other utilities across the country.

Blumenthal acknowledges it’s questionable whether FERC has the authority to overturn a decision already made by Connecticut’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, but he said a “clear and urgent need” exists for FERC to establish policy to ensure energy conservation is promoted.

Blumenthal and other opponents of the fixed charge increase contend higher fees ultimately discourage energy efficiency and conservation.

In a written statement, the authority said it took exception to Blumenthal’s characterization of the agency’s recent CL&P rate case as “unconscionable and horrendous” and its work as “misguided.”

“We especially reject his assertion that we are ‘unwilling and unable to impose fairness,'” according to the statement. “Such hyperbole is unnecessary. To the contrary, we worked hard to apply the facts to the law through a fair, open and patient process with care to hear all sides and render what we in good conscience consider an appropriate verdict.”

CL&P contends significant expenses are associated with running a large and complex electrical system and it’s “crucial we are able to recover these costs so we can continue making targeted investments in Connecticut’s electric infrastructure,” the company said in a statement. “Utilities, like many other service companies, have a combination of fixed and variable rates which are based on how much it costs the company to operate.”

Blumenthal said fixed charges from electric utilities have historically been $5 to $10 a month. But recent decisions from public utility commissions across the country are trending toward larger fixed charges, he said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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