FARMINGTON — Darlene Prescott moved into her Prescott Street home in March 2017. For several months her family’s CMP bill ran between $60 and $70 a month. Then it doubled in October and exceeded $300 in November.
She has a formal complaint working its way through the Maine Public Utilities Commission, but she still intends to share her story. She will give testimony at the second of three PUC public hearings on the utility’s request for a rate increase. The hearing begins at 6 p.m. in the North Dining Hall at the University of Maine at Farmington.
In a news release circulated to legislative leaders Monday, the company said it is seeking approval from the PUC for an increase in electricity distribution rates of about $46.5 million, 10.65 percent, for residential customers.
If state regulators accept CMP’s request, the monthly invoice for the average residential customer would increase by $3, CMP said. The monthly billing impact would have been greater, but CMP said it will limit any increases to the projected 2019 rate of inflation of 2.21 percent.
In addition to notifying legislative leaders of its proposal, CMP recently mailed letters to customers informing them of its proposed rate request, which was filed in October.
“This is the wrong time for CMP to raise rates, when they can’t even figure out how to bill correctly,” Prescott said. “Our usage went from 300 to more than 3,000 kilowatts, according to them, when there was no way it could have. They presented me a laundry list of reasons why our appliances (brand new) would chew up power, but wouldn’t even consider the issue might be theirs.”
Prescott is a plaintiff in a class-action suit filed by the group CMP Ratepayers Unite. She understands it will take time to get complete resolution — whether through a legal settlement or CMP untangles her account. But she expects to get a rebate, and she will speak Thursday to reinforce to the PUC that CMP hasn’t earned the right to raise rates.
Sandi Howard, a seasonal resident of Caratunk, also will speak. She heads up the nonprofit group Say No to NECEC (New England Clean Energy Connect), a proposed 145-mile transmission line to bring power from Hydro-Quebec through Western Maine and Lewiston and eventually to Massachusetts.
While the nearly $1 billion project is not on the hearing agenda, Howard echoed Prescott’s position.
“It’s clear that CMP’s choices are driven by profit,” Howard said. “CMP is completely disconnected from prioritizing customers’ basic needs for adequate service and accurate billing. There is no reason CMP should benefit from a rate increase before making it right with their customers. They owe their customers money.”
Howard plans to lead a Say No to NECEC demonstration at UMF ahead of the meeting. The group will gather at about 4:30 p.m. outside North Dining Hall. She expects at least three dozen to participate and then attend the hearing at 6 p.m.
The PUC expects a strong turnout Thursday, based on the more than 40 testimonies given at the first meeting held Tuesday in Portland.
“These hearings serve two purposes,” said Harry Lamphear, administrative director for the PUC. “We want to gather information on CMP’s rate request, but we also continue to work on the ongoing meter and billing concerns.”
Lamphear said that anyone who signs up to testify will be heard.
He urged those unable to attend Thursday’s PUC hearing or the third one at 6 p.m. Monday at PUC headquarters, 101 2nd St. in Hallowell, to fill out an affidavit expressing their opinion. The form is available on the PUC website.
“But anyone who wants to be heard has to have their statement notarized and postmarked by Monday, July 22,” which is also the date of the final hearing in Augusta, he said.
The affidavit form can be found on PUC’s website at https://tinyurl.com/y5esbdlt.
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