June 27, 2006

Bill Harsch on What's Wrong with the Public Utilities Commission and the Attorney General

Carroll Andrew Morse

National Grid is overcharging its Rhode Island customers. In a May filing with the Public Utilities Commission, National Grid estimated they would be collecting $48,400,000 more than was needed to pay for electricity by the end of 2006. (Think of the amount of money involved this way: in the space of a year, National Grid will suck about 1/2 of the proposed casino license fee out of the Rhode Island economy).

As Rhode Island Attorney General Candidate Bill Harsch explained in a public briefing last week, the sequence of events in response to the overcharges show that neither the Public Utilities Commission nor the current Attorney General are upholding their legal responsibilities to protect Rhode Island citizens from the problems inherent in utility monopolies...

  • The law is clear that the duty of the PUC with respect to electric carriers is to make sure that electricity rates accurately reflect production and transmission costs. Yet the Public Utilities Commission has invoked a mysterious price stability doctrine to justify keeping electric rates high. On what authority is the PUC going beyond the bounds of the law to mandate higher than necessary electric rates? When did the job of the PUC become protecting a monopoly carrier from market fluctuations, instead of protecting individuals from the danger of a monopoly fixing prices?
  • The rate cut proposed by the PUC does not provide adequate relief to Rhode Island ratepayers. According to National Grid's March filing, a reduction to a 9.4¢ per-kWh rate would have reconciled $31,900,000 in overcharges. This means that the current reduction to a 9.6¢ per-kWh rate can erase only a fraction of the now-projected $48,400,000 in overcharges. Mr. Harsch believes (and he has the law on his side) that rates should be lowered to reconcile the entire amount overcharged.
  • When National Grid asked for a rate increase in 2005, the PUC called for a series of public hearings within two weeks of the initial filings. When National Grid asked to lower rates this year, the PUC issued its recommendation against lowering rates without holding any hearings dedicated to the subject. Where was the opportunity for public participation in the process?
  • Finally, where has the Attorney General been through this? By law, the AG is notified of rate filings. The docket for the rate increases that occurred in 2005 makes note of his participation, but there is no record of his participation in the 2006 rate-lowering/price stability process. When National Grid renegged on their proposal to lower rates, even as they conceded they were still overcharging, why didnt the Attorney General intervene to demand that the law be followed?
Since the Attorney General has taken no action in response to the odd (dare I say collusive?) actions of National Grid and the Public Utilities Commission with respect to electric rates, Bill Harsch intends to file an action on behalf of National Grid ratepayers, seeking to lower rates to a level that reconciles the full $48,400,000 in projected overcharges...
Former Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission and Attorney General Candidate Bill Harsch today announced his intent to file a complaint with the PUC to reduce Rhode Islands electric utility rates.

In the absence of an effective Attorney General and with the summer cooling season fast approaching, I am taking the initiative to argue for a reduction in Rhode Islands soaring electricity rates in front of the Public Utilities Commission, Harsch said.

Next week, I will be joined in my effort by former Special Assistant Attorney General Richard Crowell whose experience in rate cases is well-established and highly respected.

It is my hope that by taking this step, we will be sending a clear message to the people of Rhode Island that there is someone willing to stand up and fight for their interests. It is my hope that we will be triumphant.

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Where is Bill Harsch?? I never hear of anything this guy is doing except for on this wonderful blog? This guy needs some media coverage? What is his staff doing? What about buying some media coverage, I mean ads?

Posted by: Grady Shipley at June 27, 2006 1:54 PM

Lynch's numbers in the Brown poll show that he is vulnerable.

Harsch has a lot of work to do, but a well organized and good strategic campaign against Lynch could succeed . .

Posted by: brassband at June 27, 2006 10:31 PM

Look for Harsch to be making serious waves following the RIGOP convention, and for Lynch to be put on the hot seat...

Also, does anyone find it unusual that Lynch has yet to announce he's running? Where's his website? Campaign manager?

He's the only incumbent not to announce... and word is he may be being looked at by some "higher-ups"

Posted by: patricklynchsucks at June 27, 2006 10:40 PM

When is he going to start a web site? I have knowledge of a lot of dirty dealings by Lynch.

Posted by: Mike at June 28, 2006 12:46 PM

Mike,

I encourage you to visit Bill's website www.BillHarsch.com

We have been up and running for some time, and have even earned recognition from political watchers at Politics1!

There you will find all of Bill's recent press, TV and Radio ads, and the latest in Bill's policy proposals and upcoming events.

And of course, we are always open to receiving any 'dirt dealings' by our opponent.

The campaign season is now officially underway, and the Harsch campaign is energized and ready for November!

Tom Shevlin
Campaign Coordinator
Bill Harsch for Attorney General

Posted by: Tom at June 28, 2006 8:10 PM

Thank you.

Posted by: Mike at June 28, 2006 8:35 PM