Public turns out in Bridgeport to protest power company rate hike

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BRIDGEPORT – Connecticut has some of the country’s highest energy costs and soon, for some, they may jump even more.

United Illuminating Company has proposed a rate hike, which means next year you could be digging deeper to pay your bill.

The first of a series of public meetings about the rate hike request was held in Bridgeport, Thursday night.

There was only a few dozen people there but a commissioner on the state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority said it already received hundreds of emails and letters, a vast majority expressing frustration about possibly paying more for power.

The rate request includes an increase over three years that would increase a typical monthly residential electric bill about 5-percent in each year of the plan.

If passed this would go in effect January, 2017.

According to UI spokesperson, Michael West, the reasons for a rate increase would be for vegetation management, meaning protecting powerlines from weather and trees, as well as system modernization and infrastructure improvement.

“Customers have come to expect high reliability, they've said that, they've wanted that we've maintained that, and that takes cost to do that,” West said. “we do know that 51-percent of our customers are not willing to pay lower rates for higher outages, we heard them loud and clear during sandy and Irene and we're just making sure we're keeping that commitment to our customers.”

For a typical resident the cumulative total increase would amount to less than $1 a day in the plans final year, according to UI.

West said rates haven’t been changed in three years.

Sen. Tony Hwang was one of several representatives at Thursday night’s meeting fighting against the proposal saying it would call for a 30% increase of electric distribution charges to the ratepayer over the next three years.

Residents say their concern lies with static salaries while utilities soar.

“It would mean that I have to immediately begin calculating what I cannot afford in other areas of my life,” Bridgeport resident Jeffrey Kohut said. “I see a lot of pain being caused by this rate increase.”

AARP representatives at the meeting also expressed concerns, specifically for seniors in the state saying they already avoid using heat and air to save money.

The next public hearing is Monday, Sept. 12, at 6:30 p.m. at Kennedy Mitchell Hall of Records on 200 Orange Street in New Haven.

According to West, a decision has to be made in 180 days from the proposal, which was released on June 1st.

The state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority makes the final decision.