Coakley opposes National Grid’s proposed rate hike
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley is urging state utility officials to reject a proposed $104 million natural gas hike for customers of National Grid, saying the company is overcharging local customers, and trying to charge them even more.
The price jump requested by National Grid, one of the state's major utilities, would be the largest hike in distribution charges in state history if approved by regulators, according to Coakley's office, which acts as an advocate for ratepayers and has been scrutinizing the utility company's expenses.
National Grid recently agreed to cut $1.5 million from the rate proposal after Coakley found what she called "inappropriate expenses" the utility planned to pass on to customers, including the cost of shipping a utility executive's wine collection from great Britain to the US, money spent to send executives to the Presidential inauguration, and the tuition paid by a National Grid executive to send his children to an exclusive private school in the UK.
It's the second time in recent weeks that Coakley, who is the state's offical advocate for ratepayers, has fought to lower energy prices charged by National Grid. Last month, her office negotiated a 10 percent reduction in the price National Grid agreed to pay for electricity from Cape Wind, the controversial energy project scheduled to begin operations in 2013.
Coakley called for a full audit of National Grid's rate proposal today, saying she believes at least $100 million in costs were charged to Massachusetts customers when they should have been allocated to the utility's New York, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island subsidiaries.
"National Grid has removed many of the inappropriate expenses that we uncovered in our review, but those costs only scratch the surface," Coakley said in a statement. "We believe that National Grid has attempted to pass on millions in unnecessary costs to Massachusetts consumers and businesses."
National Grid defended the rate hike proposal, saying it has invested $1.2 billion in its Massachusetts gas system since 2002.
"We believe that our proposal is in the best interest of customers because it will enable us to continue to provide safe and reliable service," the utility said in a statement to the Globe. "We already have removed all costs for expatriate and officer expenses from our proposal, and we are hiring an independent firm to conduct a comprehensive review of our practices on these expenses."