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AG’s office asks PURA to intervene in United Illuminating rate hikes

United Illuminating (UI), one of the state’s major electric utilities, has requested to increase its rates. The case now sits before the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA), their second major rate case of the year following a decision last month that lowered water rates for some Aquarion customers.

Now, Attorney General William Tong is getting involved, asking PURA to utilize its regulatory powers to reject the rate hike, calling it “bloated” and “unsupported.”

According to UI’s press release, the proposed levelized rate change would increase delivery rates to customers by about 4.9% and spread additional increases over three years. An alternative approach would increase the rates by 8% all at once, with rates remaining flat for the next two. 

The company has stated that the rate increases “enable UI to continue to provide safe and reliable service while maintaining top quartile reliability and increasing the resiliency of the system to meet customers’ needs. Further, the plan provides for additional investments in clean energy innovation and grid modernization efforts, like the Electric Vehicle and Energy Storage programs as well as the UCONN and AVANGRID Clean Earth Initiative.”

The AG’s office says that’s not the whole story and claims that the company has “failed to meet its evidentiary burden to raise rates.” The Attorney General says that the more than $135 million in profits from the rate increases would not be put directly back into grid improvements or other services for ratepayers, but would instead be used to offset other corporate costs like “subsidized dog walking for employees working from home, “loyalty” bonuses for workers, advertising and membership fees, and an increased profit margin far exceeding the return on equity for any publicly regulated utility in Connecticut, among many other areas.”

The distribution, or delivery, rates are among the only rates PURA has the power to reject or alter. Supply rates, which already increased for nearly every electric customer in the state, fall outside of PURA’s authority. The UI rate case is expected to last until September of this year.

The rate case, however, isn’t the only area where the AG’s office is arguing against the utility. AG Tong is also arguing that PURA should implement a $2 million annual penalty against UI for what his office sees as a failure to properly remediate the English Station property in New Haven.A 2015 order from PURA required the company to clean up certain environmental conditions at the property regardless of cost. The AG’s office says that this remediation has not been completed, and claims the company has spent only $17 million in the intervening eight years.

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Tricia Ennis

An Emmy and AP award-winning journalist, Tricia has spent more than a decade working in digital and broadcast media. She has covered everything from government corruption to science and space to entertainment and is always looking for new and interesting stories to tell. She believes in the power of journalism to affect change and to change minds and wants to hear from you about the stories you think about being overlooked.

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