Lawmakers, customers blast CL&P over proposed rate increase - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Lawmakers, customers blast CL&P over proposed rate increase

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(WFSB file photo) (WFSB file photo)

An electrifying battle between Connecticut Light and Power, customers and lawmakers over potential rate hikes continues to wage.

Lawmakers said CL&P needed to cut its own costs, not look to the customer for money to fix its grid. More than 70 of them signed a letter asking regulators to reject the proposed increase. They said people just can't afford it.

"I think it's crazy!" one customer told Eyewitness News. "How can people afford to live in the state of Connecticut? I'm retired! I'm on a fixed income. Who can afford to do that? Even people with families."

Many customers said they were fired up.

"It seems like maybe they should give us a little better service before they try to hike the rates," said Loretta Frost of Bristol.

After many customers were without power for days, some even weeks, following storms Irene, Alfred and Sandy, CL&P said it needs money to make sure those kinds of outages don't happen again.

Customers pay a $16 fixed rate each month before they even turn on the lights. CL&P wants to increase that by 60 percent to $25.50. That means the average family will pay about $114 more per year for just the service fee.

CL&P is also proposing a usage rate increase of 5.9 percent. When that's factored in, a spokesperson said the average customer would be a total of about $150 more per year.

"Expenses are going through the roof and this rate hike is just unacceptable in my opinion," said Sen. Dante Bartolomeo, 13th District.

Bartolomeo said she wrote her own letter blasting the proposal and signed on with the latest one as well.

"They need to look inward, I think, for ways to fix what's going on in their company, and not put all of that on the consumer," she said.

Consumer advocates said the fixed fees in surrounding states are much less, from $6 in western Massachusetts to $12-$39 in New Hampshire.

CL&P officials said the money from the higher rates will go toward improvements like larger, stronger poles, wires and transformers. It will also help with tree-trimming.

"Running a large complex electric system like ours that covers a large portion of the state is costly," said Tricia Taskey Modifica, a CL&P spokesperson. "And over time, you do have to make these investments into the system, and unfortunately that comes at a cost."

PURA, the state board that regulates utilities, has been holding public meetings with consumers on the proposed increase. Its decision is expected sometime in December.

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