CT town launches petition to fight Eversource rate increase

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The proposed Eversource rate hike for next month has prompted town leaders to launch a petition to prevent the increase.

In the wake of news that Eversource sought to bump its electric rates by nearly 19%, costing an average residential customer an additional $38 a month by May 1, Vernon’s Town Administrator Michael J. Purcaro helped pen an online petition to fight the potential rising costs. The petition was made public.

And the town of Vernon is asking all Eversource customers to sign the online petition, not just Vernon residents. The town will forward the petition to the state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority.

“This affects everyone,” Purcaro said. “If you think about it — whether you are a customer or not — this affects you. A 19 percent increase hurts in a good economy but it stings even with inflation. It’s a 19 percent increase for the customers of (many) municipalities in the state.”

“But when I put my town administration hat on, I look at all of the electricity expenses in town,” Purcaro said. “We have huge expenses for our schools, water treatment facility, town buildings. That expense will be a driver in setting the mill rate and that will affect taxes.”

Purcaro noted that all the businesses in town also will have to deal with the increases and that will be translated back to the consumer.

“When they talk about justifying a 19 percent increase,” Purcaro said. “They say it’s out of our control. Bills need to be paid. Inflation. People not paying bills. That may be true to a degree but here’s where I get stuck – why is the Eversource CEO’s pay…millions of dollars, if times are so difficult. Rate payers are struggling and that’s one thing they can control and they are not. Obviously, they aren’t hurting for money.”

“I’m tired as a municipality that the ratepayers keep filling the (paychecks) for these executives,” he said.

The two main reasons for the increase, according to the Eversource, are electric supply costs and unpaid customer balances. The utility serves 149 towns in the state with electric service.

Asked about the petition, Eversource responded that, “Vernon’s town leaders are dead wrong if they think their approach is anything other than a disservice to their constituents.

“This rate increase is almost entirely driven by state-mandated and approved programs, which we earn no profit on, and is exacerbated by regulatory policies that delayed and deferred costs,” the statement said. “Vernon’s misinformed strategy would only create a further piling up of costs, which will lead to an even greater burden for customers next year, which we strongly oppose.”

But Purcaro said he would “encourage everyone to sign our petition.”.

“We wanted to provide an easy, convenient way for Vernon residents – or any state resident – to let their voices be heard,” he said. “Just click on the button and we are going to send it along to PURA.”

“We want PURA to their job,” Purcaro said. “They are advocates for the best interest of Connecticut residents.”

In the first hour after he put up the petition on Tuesday, it had 100 signatures.

Joe Cooper, the PURA deputy director of communications, said in a statement that the filings from Eversource and United Illuminating about rates are docketed before PURA as Docket No. 24-01-03 and Docket No. 24-01-04, respectively. PURA held an evidentiary hearing in New Britain on March 18 on the matter.

“These filings and anticipated rate impacts represent the requests of each electric utility, but importantly signify just the first step in a rigorous public process during which PURA and its stakeholders will thoroughly vet the requests, including through the issuance of discovery questions and evidentiary hearings,” Cooper said.

“Because the matter is now pending before the agency, we cannot offer further comment at this time,” he said, “We will invite members of the public who would like to provide feedback on the requests to submit comments to PURA by emailing [email protected], referencing the docket number corresponding to their utility.”

Eversource will present to the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority on Thursday. If approved, the increase will go into effect in May.

The total proposed increase is $784 million, which would be a $38/month, or 18.7%, increase for a typical residential customer.

“Eversource has proposed solutions, with a clear explanation for this rate increase available at eversource.com/solutions,” the Eversource statement said. “We remain engaged with key stakeholders as we advocate for customer-focused solutions and encourage anyone concerned about rate volatility to contact their legislator or the governor’s office to tell PURA to employ policies that make rates predictable.

“If Vernon’s town leaders are interested in a constructive conversation about bill predictability, avoiding rate shock, and coming up with solutions, they’re always welcome to join us in the collaborative process we began months ago. Charged political rhetoric makes for good headlines but it does not accomplish anything for residents,” the Eversource statement said.

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