House, Senate Leaders At Odds Over Utility Rebate Issue

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(Host) Democratic leaders at the Statehouse disagree on the best way to for CVPS to return $21 million to its ratepayers as part of the utility’s merger with Green Mountain Power.

It’s an issue that’s likely to come to a head in the next week or two.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) When CVPS ratepayers bailed the company out of serious financial problems in 2001, the Public Service Board said the ratepayers should "share in the profit" if the company was ever sold.

Now GMP wants to buy CVPS and the amount of that profit sharing is valued at $21 million.

But instead of rebating this money directly to consumers, the utilities and Governor Peter Shumlin want to invest the funds in weatherization and energy efficiency programs. 

Senate President John Campbell doesn’t like this approach.

(Campbell) "I know there are a lot of senators on both sides of the aisle that are very concerned about this and I think we’ll be having further discussions. I don’t think it’s going away."

(Kinzel) And Campbell says the basic concept of this issue isn’t that hard to understand.

(Campbell) "It’s clear I think to anybody the fact that CVPS payers bailed them out to the tune of $21 million this is not rocket science."

(Kinzel) House Speaker Shap Smith doesn’t agree. He thinks lawmakers should let the Public Service Board decide how to deal with this question.

(Smith) "The Public Service Board with the people that they have who can help them consider the decision and analyze what value means are the best situated to decide whether checks should be returned to ratepayers or there should be some other mechanism that value is returned."

(Kinzel) And if lawmakers do get directly involved in this issue, Smith wonders where Legislative interest in Public Service Board cases will end.

(Smith) "If we’re going to intervene is this particular instance will we be intervening in each docket and is that appropriate and if we’re going to do that does it make more sense for us just to get rid of the Public Service Board and we can hear all of things in the Legislature. I can tell you right now that’s not a direction I want to go in."

(Kinzel) One tri-partisan group of senators is urging GMP and the Shumlin Administration to make changes to this part of the merger agreement but the utility and the Governor both say it’s very unlikely that this is going to happen.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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