Connecticut regulators have begun a weeklong series of hearings to determine who will pay for an ambitious multimillion-dollar plan to connect about 280,000 new customers to natural gas, according to an article in the Connecticut Post.
One small business owner told regulators that the joint proposal by Connecticut's natural gas monopolies would siphon off customers and have a grave impact on her family business, according to the article. “Please allow us to continue to compete fairly,” said Kate Childs, vice president of Tuxis Ohr’s Fuel in Meriden.
The utilities are asking regulators to cover much of the $239 million in expansion costs with new customer rates that would spread the cost of hookups over 25 years, eliminate a required contribution toward construction for customers connected to gas lines that are 150 feet or closer to gas mains, and make other rate changes to encourage the large-scale switch to natural gas, the Post reports.
Joseph Rose, president of the Propane Gas Association of New England, told regulators that fuel oil and propane gas workers would lose their jobs if hundreds of thousands of customers switch to natural gas in the next 10 years. “Propane is a domestically produced gas that comes from the same wells as natural gas, yet no one is trying to incentivize my membership to expand our businesses and take on hundreds of thousands of new customers,” he said.
Critics also said utility shareholders, not ratepayers, should bear the brunt of the project's increased costs because they would be the chief beneficiaries.
Meanwhile, WTNH.com reports that new natural gas customers who connect under the state’s plan will face a 30 percent rate hike over seven years. The state might also authorize the utilities to impose a surcharge on current ratepayers to cover some of the expansion costs.
To read the Connecticut Post article, click here.