Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal urged state regulators Tuesday to reject a request by Connecticut Light & Power to increase a flat monthly fee on customers by nearly 60 percent.
In separate letters, Malloy and Blumenthal expressed their concern to the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority about the 59 percent increase in a monthly service charge. If its application is approved, CL&P could increase the monthly charge from $16 to $25.50. The fee increase would apply regardless of energy consumption.
“Such a step is completely contrary to Connecticut’s energy policy, unfairly penalizes those who use the least electricity and unduly burdens small businesses and people on low or fixed incomes,” Malloy wrote.
In his letter, Blumenthal said the state’s energy rates were already too high.
“Connecticut electric rates are already among the highest in the United States — fifth highest according to the federal Energy Information Administration — and ratepayers cannot afford the additional burden imposed by CL&P’s rate request,” he wrote.
Mitch Gross, a spokesman for CL&P, said the rate request was necessary for the utility to make investment’s in the state’s electricity infrastructure.
“Last year, reliability was better than it’s been in over a decade due to the targeted system improvements and replacements we have made in our system. At the same time, we have worked hard to control our own operating costs, which have resulted in savings for customers,” he said in a statement.
Gross said it was important to remember that customer feedback would be part of PURA’s review process.
But Blumenthal and Malloy also objected to a proposal by CL&P to increase its rate of return from 9.4 to 10.2 cents per dollar. In his letter, Malloy commended the company for making infrastructure investments following major power outages caused by a devastating winter storm in 2011 and Hurricanes Irene and Sandy.
“While these investments are both necessary and appreciated, we are living in a time of low interest rates and lower returns on investments, as anyone with a savings account or an IRA knows. In the current economic environment, we do not need to further burden rate payers by increasing CL&P’s rate of return beyond what residents can expect in their own investments,” Malloy wrote.
During a press conference at the Legislative Office Building, Blumenthal called the rate request the most “outrageous” and “unfair” in his memory. State Consumer Counsel Elin Katz called the flat rate increase an “enormous jump” in an already-high fee.
CL&P has proposed to raise the fee to $25.50 a month. Katz said that far exceeds the rates in nearby areas. She said the fixed charge in the Boston area is $6.43 a month. In Western Massachusetts, the fee is $6 a month and in New Hampshire it’s $12.39, she said.
“If you look at from Maine all the way down here to Connecticut, Rhode Island, we’re talking about being by far the highest charge. It’s unwarranted. It’s unmerited,” she said.
Katz said her office has advocated for the utility to reduce the fixed charge to a little more that $11 per month.
State regulators expect to have a draft decision on the utility’s requests by early December. In the meantime, PURA will hold a series of public comment hearings on the proposed increases. A public hearing is scheduled for Wednesday in New Britain with another in Stamford on Thursday. A third hearing will be held in New London on Sept. 3.