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Connecticut attorney general calls on PURA to regulate United Illuminating

Attorney General William Tong.
Molly Ingram
Attorney General William Tong.

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong is calling on the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority to exercise more control over United Illuminating.

The power company wants to raise their rates as much as 8% over the next three years. The company cited subsidized dog walking for employees working from home, “loyalty” bonuses for staff, and advertising and membership fees, as reasons for the rate increases.

Tong called on PURA to reject the proposal.

“On September 9, 2022 — at a time when its customers were struggling to afford their skyrocketing electric bills—UI filed a bloated, unsupported proposal to increase its electric distribution rates by $136.5 million over the next three years. During the next seven months of administrative litigation before PURA, the Company failed to meet its burden to justify its exorbitant rate increase proposals,” Attorney General Tong said.

He also asked PURA to fine UI because they have not cleared environmental toxins from English Station in New Haven.

The site is contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a known carcinogen, heavy metals and other contaminants, according to Tong.

English Station was an oil-fired power plant until the 1990s. UI was expected to finish removing toxic and blighted material from the site in 2019.

Tong said UI has made little progress, and the site has been left accessible to vandalism.

He asked PURA to fine UI $2 million a year until the station is clean.

PURA “should send a message that this continued delay will no longer be tolerated. UI’s continued failure to make reasonable progress is not an accident—it represents a deliberate corporate policy of indifference to the residents of New Haven, the state, and to this authority,” Tong said.

“United Illuminating values our customers, and as a member of the Connecticut community for more than 100 years, we also understand the impacts of rising costs on households," said Craig Gilvarg, a spokesperson from Avangrid. "For months, United Illuminating has called for reform and accountability in the regional energy market, and will continue to do so until New England delivers the affordable, stable pricing and reliability our customers deserve."

“The deregulation of the energy market two decades ago eliminated the ability of Connecticut officials to regulate energy supply costs, and we saw the consequences in the significant hardship Connecticut families faced this winter. This emphasizes the urgent need to accelerate the clean energy transition, and underscores the significant investments in grid modernization, innovation, and climate resiliency to hasten a clean energy future and address the price volatility and resource scarcity impacting our region.

To advance these pressing goals, United Illuminating has put forward a rate case before the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority seeking a modest 4.9% increase — its first rate increase request since 2016, and below the rate of inflation — to prepare and strengthen our critical infrastructure, including coastal substations, for the accelerating impacts of climate change; and align our investments with the state’s clean energy goals to enable Connecticut to meet its ambitious 2040 climate target. UI stands ready as a partner to address the real issues facing Connecticut families, but restricting critical investments in grid infrastructure is not the answer the state or its residents need.“

Unlike the 107% increase on energy supply rates set by out-of-state generation companies this winter with zero transparency or accountability – representing 70% of the bill UI customers pay monthly – UI received and responded to an unprecedented number of data requests through the rate case, and provided detailed testimony over 15 hearing days to PURA to outline our proposed investments and the benefits they will deliver to ratepayers, including long-term savings, a more modern, resilient grid, and continued safe, reliable service.

Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.