Conn. cuts $49M from utility's storm cost request

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NEW BRITAIN, Conn. (AP) — Regulators have cut $49 million from a request by the state's largest utility for ratepayers to pay for work preparing for and recovering from five destructive storms.

The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority on Monday issued a preliminary decision allowing Connecticut Light & Power to recover $365 million for preparation and response to Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011, a Nor'easter two months later, Superstorm Sandy in October 2012 and two major storms in June 2011 and September 2012.

CL&P may recover the costs over six years. It asked for permission to dun ratepayers for $414 million.

The Berlin-based utility said it was still reviewing the decision.

"Many of the storms included in this filing were historic, causing unprecedented damage to our electric system, which is costly to repair," CL&P said. "Restoring and rebuilding the electric system after storms is a time-consuming process that involves thousands of employees as well as out of state crews and other resources."

Regulators said an agreement allowing parent company Northeast Utilities to purchase NStar in Boston in 2012 required CL&P to freeze distribution rates until at least Dec. 1 and absorb the first $40 million in storm costs.

The state said CL&P's storm reserve account request totaled $414 million in storm costs, after regulators applied $8.3 million in storm cost reserve funds and the $40 million write-down as part of the agreement with Northeast Utilities.

State Attorney General George Jepsen said the $49 million cut was not as much as he asked for but he was pleased with the amount. He calculated the total amount at $89 million, including the $40 million that was negotiated in the settlement with Northeast Utilities.

"While companies are entitled to recover reasonable storm costs, we are pleased the authority has disallowed $89 million of the more than $400 million that CL&P sought for these storms," he said.

Jepsen criticized CL&P last year, saying it knew it could not keep a promise to restore nearly all electricity following the October 2011 snowstorm, which cut power to hundreds of thousands of customers for up to 11 days.

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