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Aquarion rates for New London to go down

By Joe Wojtas
Day Staff Columnist, Stonington/Mystic
Published on 10/15/2004

Mystic — Rates for local Aquarion Water Co. customers will decrease by an average of almost 9 percent even though the company had asked for a 7.7 percent increase, according to a draft decision by the state Department of Public Utility Control.

The DPUC issued its preliminary decision Thursday, saying the company had not proven its case for the rate increase.

Aquarion, which serves customers in 36 Connecticut communities, including 11,000 in the Mystic area, had requested an increase in revenues of $16.1 million or almost 14 percent. The DPUC decided to lower the amount the company can collect by $4.1 million or 3.6 percent.

This means the typical quarterly bill for a family of four in Mystic would decrease from the current $104.82 to $95.40.

The company had argued the increase would reflect the company's $151 million upgrade of the system since 1996.

DPUC spokesman David Goldberg said the department determined that the company's revenue requirement had decreased based on the assets the DPUC says can be considered in determining how much money it can recoup.

The DPUC also based its decision on rainfall projections, an increase in customers and incomplete projects.

State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who had earlier called the company's proposal unreasonable and out of touch with market conditions, praised the DPUC's decision Thursday.

“Aquarion has been rightly rewarded for its arrogance — receiving a rate reduction rather than the outlandishly excessive increase it requested,” Blumenthal said.

He said the DPUC acted correctly by ordering Aquarion to return to its customers their fair share of profits from the company's $90 million land sale in 2002 and denied Aquarion's “outlandish and outrageous attempt to shift the cost of lucrative employee bonus plans from shareholders to ratepayers.”

Aquarion spokeswoman Adrienne Vaughan said Thursday the company was shocked by the preliminary decision and believes it is highly inappropriate. She declined to comment further until the company has been able to review the decision.

She could not say whether the company would appeal the decision, which would have to be done by Oct. 20. The DPUC will issue a final decision Oct. 27.

j.wojtas@theday.com