NEW BRITAIN - Although Eversource has cut its request for new revenue from rate hikes in half, its plan drew more opposition than support at its first public hearing Wednesday night.
The first of several hearings by the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority came after Eversource filed for new three-year rates totaling $154.5 million in additional revenue after lowering its initial proposal from $336.9 million.
The proposal would increase customers’ bills by 2.47 percent the first year, 0.81 percent the second year and 0.61 percent the third year.
The lower rate proposal came in a settlement with the state Office of Consumer Counsel, which helps regulates utilities for the state, Eversource and PURA.
“We rarely make settlements like this,” said Richard Soboleewski of the Office of Consumer Counsel. He said Eversource was able to postpone its filing past the traditional December deadline after working with his agency, and the rate reduction is a result of benefits from the federal tax changes, which reduced the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent.
“We cannot afford to have energy bills go up,” said state Rep. Tom Delnicki, R-South Windsor. He said having high electricity rates will deter businesses from moving into Connecticut.
State Sen. Len Suzio, R-Meriden, echoed similar sentiments, saying this increase was the “wrong choice at the wrong time.” He advocated for holding off on any rate increases while the state legislature addresses the state’s deficit crisis.
“We disagree with that,” Eversource spokeswoman Tricia Modifica told The Herald after the hearing. She said the rate increases - which would be the first in three years - would help bolster the economy by providing reliable energy.
Making investments to improve the system would also create jobs, she added.
The rates would go toward strengthening the system to better withstand storms with larger, stronger poles, better switches on the system and improved tree trimming. Without the rate increase, those improvements would be cut back, said Tom Dorsey, manager of governmental affairs for Eversource.
“I don’t feel like we should be paying extra to make any upgrades to the poles or any lines,” said one audience member.
But Patrick McMahon, president and CEO of Connecticut Main Street Center, supported the proposed rate increase. “Without the great corporate citizenship of Eversouce, Connecticut Main Street Center would not be able to do what it does,” said McMahon. The group, founded with help from Connecticut Light & Power - the former company of Eversource, fosters economic development in cities and towns.
Public hearings will continue on Jan. 30 at the Stamford Government Center, on Jan, 31 at the Branford Fire Department and on Feb. 6 at New London City Hall.
Eversouce customers can also submit comments by contacting PURA at Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, Ten Franklin Square, New Britain, CT 06051, or via e-mail at email@example.com, referencing Docket No. 17-10-46.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.