Conn. A.G. moves to block layoffs at two utilities‏

Nick Rees Nov. 12, 2009, 3:45pm

Richard Blumenthal (D)

HARTFORD, Conn. (Legal Newsline) - An immediate order by the Department of Public Utility Control to block layoffs at Connecticut Natural Gas and Southern Connecticut Gas is being sought by Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and Consumer Counsel Mary Healey.

"Following excessive profits last fall, the companies have sought to increase rates and terminate workers - while maintaining lucrative executive compensation - at the expense of ratepayers and employees," Blumenthal said. "The DPUC rightly rejected a rate increase request, and now should renew its order barring layoffs as its investigation into these job cuts continues."

The utilities first announced planned layoffs following DPUC's rejection of their rate hikes. DPUC cut CNG's rates by 4.2 percent and SCG's by 3.2 percent. The DPUC cited the company's earning of profits more than the approximately 10 percent allowed by regulators as the reason for the rate cuts.

The DPUC ordered a temporary order to block those layoffs but, after it expired, this new round of layoffs was announced to begin on Monday. The layoffs come despite an ongoing investigation by the DPUC into the safety and reliability ramifications of the job cuts, would begin next week.

"CNG and SCG are cravenly cutting key jobs - pushing employees out the door and attempting to beat any state ruling against it," Blumenthal said." This threat is the height of corporate arrogance, and must be stopped immediately before it creates a public danger and service reliability nightmare."

Blumenthal characterized the utilities as first responders in the event of a gas leak or similar public safety hazards and said that layoffs could potentially jeopardize the safety of both workers and the public.

"These workers are first responders in the event of gas leaks and similar public dangers," Blumenthal said. "Even more than most companies, CNG and SCG have a responsibility - as publicly regulated companies providing a life-dependent service - to maintain safe employment levels."

Blumenthal and Healey stated that, until the study of how the layoffs would affect safety, they were potentially creating a dangerous situation.

"The DPUC has not received sufficient information from CNG and SCG to complete its review of the effects of these layoffs on reliability and safety," Healey said. "Until that happens, for the companies to go ahead with these layoffs would be inappropriate and potentially imprudent."

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