Blumenthal argues for citizen's right to contest electric rates

By Nick Rees | Nov 4, 2009


HARTFORD, Conn. (Legal Newsline) - Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal argued before the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday to uphold the public's right to contest electricity rates.

Blumenthal urged the court to uphold a ruling by a lower court that affirmed the right of states and citizens to challenge what they feel are unfair and unreasonable power prices.

"I am fighting before the nation's highest court to protect the public's right to seek more affordable electricity -- and to assure power prices are fair and reasonable, as mandated by federal law," Blumenthal said.

An attempt to overturn the ruling is being made by a group of power companies that argue that prices resulting from private contracts cannot be challenged by regulators or citizens.

"I am urging the justices to reject Big Energy's power grab to prevent states and individuals from contesting unfair and unreasonable electricity rates," Blumenthal said.

"The power companies' argument that power prices result solely from private contracts is deeply disingenuous, ignoring the vast and vital role played by state and federal regulators in setting prices, as well as the federal requirement that rates be fair and reasonable."

The current case comes as a result of a settlement over new charges to ratepayers between some New England power companies, regulators and federal authorities that are intended to encourage power plant construction.

Blumenthal opposed the settlement, stating that the charges were unnecessary to promote construction and would result in an unearned windfall to power producers. As a result, Blumenthal said, the rate increases were neither fair nor reasonable as required by federal law.

Blumenthal appealed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's approval of the settlement to the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Blumenthal argued that the settlement unfairly and illegally restricted the rights of states and consumers to challenge rates that are unjust and unreasonable.

"Power companies can contract among themselves, but consumers and states must retain their long-established right to challenge resulting rates that are unfair and unreasonable," Blumenthal said.

"Power producers, already making windfall profits, are seeking to undermine states' and individuals' authority to contest excessive prices, even as Connecticut suffers under the highest electricity costs in the continental United States."

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