CT PURA GETS IT RIGHT IN THE END, LOSES CREDIBILITY IN THE PROCESS

Connecticut regulators finally came around to realize what would seem to be the obvious—they have a responsibility to regulate the utilities. The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) now says it does have jurisdiction over the proposed Northeast Utilities (NU)-NStar merger after lamely saying in June that it didn’t. Making sure that Connecticut ratepayers don’t suffer in service or rates should be job one in considering the deal which would create one of the biggest utilities in New England. Although PURA got right in the end (assuming it doesn’t do a flip-flop-flip), its June draft decision, its subsequent recalcitrance despite repeated calls to reconsider and its about-face last week should make everyone in the state question whether PURA is up to the job.

In June, PURA abdicated its responsibility claiming that because no legal entity was being created in Connecticut, the board had no jurisdiction. Nonsense, said state Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz and Attorney General George Jespen. They and others clearly saw the needed for PURA to review the deal. That pressure and the ever-increasing appearance that Connecticut regulators sat on their hands while their Massachusetts counterparts were doing everything they could to protect customers, led the authority to finally act.

Meanwhile, the entire whole deal is in jeopardy. Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick made sure of that when he demanded that the review process include storm response. Connecticut now follows along like the younger brother wanting to play with “the big kids.”

Katz and Jepsen had it right all along. What was clear to them was not clear to PURA and they all have the same job—protecting Connecticut ratepayers.