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 State Attorney General opposes Connecticut Water 30% rate hike

By Fay Abrahamsson
Published on 9/7/2006

A short time after the Connecticut Water Company announced it had filed a request to raise its rates, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, in a statement of his own, said he opposes the 30 percent rate increase and would intervene on behalf of the company's customers.

In July, Connecticut Water proposed a $14.6 million rate increase request to the Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control (DPUC). It was the first rate increase request by Connecticut Water in 15 years. The request, which represents a 30.2 percent overall increase in rates, must be approved by the DPUC.

In late August, Blumenthal announced he had petitioned the DPUC to intervene, which would allow him the opportunity to express his opposition to the increase during upcoming DPUC hearings.

Blumenthal said he is seeking to intervene because Connecticut Water's $14.6 million rate increase will affect most, if not all, of its customers in more than 40 towns in regions throughout the state, including the shoreline, Naugatuck Valley, and northern Connecticut.

“I cannot fathom any factual justification for such an astronomical rate increase—and the state's economy cannot afford it,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “This stunning 30 percent rate hike certainly cannot stand without strict scrutiny. We will carefully review every aspect of this extraordinary request.

“Connecticut citizens are rightfully frustrated by this proposed extreme increase, adding insult to injury for consumers already suffering from electric price increases of more than 70 percent over the past three years alone,” Blumenthal continued. “These burdens have been exacerbated by steep hikes in the costs of natural gas, home heating oil, and gasoline prices.”

Hearings on the proposed rate increase will begin in late September, and a DPUC decision on the matter is expected in January.

Blumenthal was not the only state official to object to Connecticut Water's increase: Governor M. Jodi Rell urged the attorney general to contest the rate request with the DPUC.

“Two hundred seventy-five thousand customer households in 41 towns could be hurt by the requested $14.6 million water rate increase, along with municipal and corporate customers,” the governor said in a statement.

Mary B. Ingarra, manager of public affairs for Connecticut Water, said the move by Blumenthal, and others, is expected.

“The attorney general normally does this—we expected it,” said Ingarra. “We welcome his input.”

Positive and negative opinions from others, including Connecticut Water customers, are also welcome, said Ingarra. Customers should be receiving a letter soon that will inform them of the dates and times of the public hearings. At the public hearings, all customers are invited to express their questions and concerns over the proposed rate increase.

President and CEO of Connecticut Water Eric W. Thornburg has said the company has invested more than $130 million in its infrastructure to enhance the quality, safety, and security of its system and to maintain regulatory compliance.

Thornburg also said the company has done all it can over that time to hold rates down for customers despite the fact that costs have risen.

Operating costs have risen more than 60 percent, said Ingarra.

“All costs are up including fuel and energy,” she said. “These rising costs are affecting our business, too.”

The company maintains that under the proposed new rate, a typical residential customer using 18,000 gallons of water per quarter would see an increase between $3 and $12 per month on their bill. In a statement to the New Haven Register, company vice president of administrative and government affairs Maureen Westbrook said the increase would add an average of $9 to $15 a month to a bill.

“Water is a quality of life issue,” said Ingarra. “We want to maintain and deliver reliable service to keep this quality of life.”

A public hearing over the proposed increase will be held Tuesday, Sept. 19, at 6:30 p.m. at the Clinton Memorial Town Hall.