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AG’s Experts to Cost Water Users at Least $150,000

On November 14, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley's office announced it would intervene for the first time in a water rate case by scrutinizing the Milford Water Company's requested 83.4 percent rate hike. Left unsaid was the fact that the privately-owned utility's customers would be paying for that scrutiny.

On January 24, the state Department of Public Utilities (DPU) approved the Attorney General's request – dated 10 days earlier – for $150,000 to hire experts to review the rate hike request, with its ruling noting that "All reasonable and proper expenses for such experts or consultants are to be borne by the affected company and are recoverable through the company's rates."

Coakley's request to the DPU stated: "The company's filing is sufficiently complex that, pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws chapter 12, section 11E (b), the Attorney General of the Commonwealth has determined that it is necessary to retain experts and consultants to assist in this proceeding before the Department... [the cited section of state law] allows the Attorney General to charge back to the utilities the cost of experts and consultants up to $150,000 per proceeding, unless the Department, based upon exigent circumstances, finds that additional costs should be approved."

Town Counsel Gerald Moody wrote a January 18 letter to the DPU in support of Coakley's request. "The Town of Milford fully agrees with the purpose of and the need for the Attorney General's retention of necessary experts and consultants. As stated in the Attorney General's Notice, and is evident from the record, the petition of Milford Water Company for a rate increase is extraordinary in nature, particularly in light of the most recent rate increase and the company failures over many recent years. The expert assistance which the Attorney General's office seeks to engage will be of enormous help to the Department, and to all parties, in resolving all of the many issues raised by the Milford Water Company's petition," his letter stated.

In its ruling approving Coakley's request, the DPU noted: "The Attorney General asserts that such experts and consultants are necessary in this docket to fully represent the interests of the Company's customers. The Attorney General states that the areas of consultant expertise would include but not be limited to issues related to cost of service and accounting, including any ancillary issues related to cost of service. The Attorney General states that the Company's filing is sufficiently complex that she requires $150,000 for experts and consultants to assist her in this proceeding. The Attorney General further states that she reserves her right to ask for additional funds."

The state Department of Public Utilities (DPU) has published a procedural schedule indicating that it will not make its decision on water rate hike until after mid-June. Already –as part of that procedure – both the town and the DPU have asked the privately owned utility to answer more than 100 questions and the Milford Water Company has begun replying.




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