The state’s largest electric utility on Thursday asked state regulators to let it collect from ratepayers $414 million in costs associated with damage caused by five major storms that hit in 2011 and 2012.
In a filing with the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, Connecticut Light & Power Co. initiated a regulatory review process for the costs incurred from the five storms — including Hurricane Sandy and the October 2011 nor’easter. It is seeking to recover the costs over a six-year period from its more than 1.2 million customers in 149 cities and towns.
If the request is approved, the recovery would result in a rate increase of about $3 per month for the typical residential CL&P customer beginning Dec. 1, 2014, CL&P said.
The storms caused widespread outages and massive damage that, in some cases, required CL&P to completely rebuild entire sections of its electrical distribution system, the utility said.
“The damage from these natural disasters and the response to complete repairs was extraordinary and unlike anything in CL&P history,” said Bill Herdegen, CL&P president and chief operating officer. “Typically, storms of this magnitude strike years or decades apart, but in 16 months we experienced four of the company’s 10 most devastating storms.
“Responding to Mother Nature’s wrath is a necessary, but costly, part of the utility business,” he added.
In its filing Thursday, CL&P said the combined cost of the five storms was $462.3 million. About $175 million is associated with the October 2011 nor’easter, and $156 million with Sandy in 2012. The remaining costs are from Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 and major storms in June 2011 and September 2012.
CL&P is asking regulators, however, to let it recover $414 million, or 89.6 percent of the total. CL&P said that’s because an April 2012 settlement reached with state regulators that allowed its parent company, Northeast Utilities, to merge with Massachusetts-based NStar included a provision requiring CL&P to forgo collecting $40 million in costs incurred from Irene and the October 2011 storm.
The remaining $8.3 million CL&P is not seeking to collect from ratepayers was already set aside in a storm reserve fund.
State regulations allow CL&P to recover the costs of damage and repairs related to major storms. The costs include replacing damaged equipment, bringing in outside line and tree workers, and staffing the restoration effort around the clock.
State Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz, who represents the interests of consumers in utility cases, said her office is aware of the filing but has not yet had a chance to carefully review CL&P’s accounting of its costs from the storms.
“The $462.3 million is an extraordinary number,” she said. “We will look at the reasonableness of the costs incurred, and go through them with a fine-tooth comb. We haven’t looked at the filing in any depth at this point, and that’s the next step in the process.”
Dennis Schain, a spokesman for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, which oversees PURA, said state regulators will now begin “a comprehensive review process to determine how much CL&P should be able to recover from ratepayers for costs it incurred restoring power after the major storms of the past two years.”
He said PURA will develop a schedule for the review process, which will include public hearings, an “extensive review of documents and data submitted by the company,” and discussions with CL&P officials.