CNG must give overearnings back to customers, Blumenthal says

By John O'Brien | Jul 16, 2008


HARTFORD, Conn. (Legal Newsline) - Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal on Wednesday formally asked the state's utility board to take more than $15 million in profit that Connecticut Natural Gas has made.

Blumenthal made good on a June promise to seek the return of earnings that CNG was not authorized to make. He submitted a formal brief to the Department of Public Utility Control.

"An immediate rate cut must stop these unacceptable overearnings - particularly as consumers desperately struggle to pay spiraling utility costs," Blumenthal said.

"After unjust and unreasonable charges for nearly half a year, consumers deserve prompt relief, as much as $9 per heating month for the average consumer."

In the year ending April 30, Blumenthal said CNG made $15.5 million more than it was allowed. The company was authorized to receive a 10.1 percent profit margin, but posted earnings of 14.27 percent.

Blumenthal says the DPUC is required to conduct a hearing on an interim rate decrease.

"CNG's sustained overearnings are an unfortunate and unwelcome vindication of our fight against its 2007 rate increase, proving that their $14 million increase was unwarranted," Blumenthal said.

"CNG can no longer hide its rate reality, as it collects millions of dollars in unauthorized profits at the expense of its consumers."

In May, Blumenthal asked state regulators to block CNG from collecting $1.4 million from 3,400 customers he said it illegally billed in January.

The utility in November and December 2007 mistakenly under-billed about 3,400 customers, and CNG sought to make up for the mistake in January, sending those same consumers bills that included that month's usage plus the under-billed amounts from the previous two months.

Because of the combined bills, consumers faced a January bill that were much higher than usual, the attorney general's office said.

CNG did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at john@legalnewsline.com.

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