Bryan Cohen Nov. 15, 2012, 4:34pm

MILFORD, Mass. (Legal Newsline) - Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced on Wednesday that her office had intervened for the first time in a water rate case as permitted by a new law.

The action marks the first time Coakley's office used its intervention rights in a water rate case under the energy bill, An Act Relative to Competitively Priced Electricity in the Commonwealth, since it was passed in July. Coakley's office is taking action to ensure transparency and ratepayer protection in the Milford Water Company's request for an 82 percent rate increase to cover the cost for building a new plant for water treatment.

The case is now before the Department of Public Utilities.

"Our intervention in these cases will help ensure that ratepayers are protected against excessive rate hikes," Coakley said. "We are currently reviewing company documents to determine whether any of the claimed costs are unwarranted."

On Oct. 12, the Milford Water Company filed a petition with the DPU for an 82.7 percent increase over current rates, a rate increase of approximately $3.8 million. The company claims the increased cost is the result of compliance with the state's clean water regulations, the Federal Safety Water Drinking Act and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protections.

The new law permits Coakley's Office of Ratepayer Advocacy to directly intervene in water rate cases before the DPU. Prior to the passage of the law, Coakley's office already had the power to intervene in gas and electricity rate cases.

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