Bryan Cohen Dec. 3, 2012, 6:41pm

HARTFORD, Conn. (Legal Newsline) - Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen and Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz asked state utility regulators on Monday to require Northeast Utilities to respond to layoff and staffing questions after its merger with NSTAR.

The settlement agreement reached on March 15 said that the merger between the two utility companies required 30 days advance notice to the state about any facility closing or layoff of employees. The agreement also required a demonstration that workforce reduction in Connecticut is equitable, proportional and fair to reductions in other states where the utility conducts business.

"Under a plain and fair interpretation of the settlement agreement, every termination related to the merger is a layoff that requires notice to the attorney general and OCC, as well as a full detailed demonstration of proportionality," Jepsen and Katz said. "NU should be ordered to comply with the plain terms of its settlement now and in the future."

NU acknowledged that 319 employees have left the utility since the completion of the merger in April and that some of the separations were involuntary. The Public Utility Regulatory Authority posed four questions to the utility about staffing levels on October 25. NU failed to provide the information in a November 16 response.

The utility claimed that it was not required to share the information because the reductions in the workforce were expected as a result of the merger and did not trigger the notice requirement.

Jepsen and Katz disagreed with the utility's position in their letter to PURA on Monday.

"(PURA should) order the company to respond fully and properly to the questions posed within 10 days, and to provide notice that any future failures to comply with its notice obligations may result in sanctions," Jepsen and Katz said. "The authority must not permit NU's direct attempt to abrogate its settlement obligations."

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