(Host) Lt. Governor Phil Scott is calling on the Shumlin Administration to reopen their negotiations over the CVPS merger plan, so that $21 million can be returned directly to ratepayers.
Scott says the stockholders of CVPS have an obligation to make the payment as part of the final merger.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:
(Kinzel) This part of the CVPS-GMP merger is quickly becoming one of the most controversial issues at the Statehouse.
In 2001, the Public Service Board said that ratepayers should "share in the profit" if CVPS was ever sold because the ratepayers helped the utility avoid bankruptcy. That sale is now taking place and the ratepayer share of the profit has been valued at $21 million.
GMP and the Shumlin Administration want to put the $21 million into weatherization and energy efficiency programs. They argue the benefit of this approach is better for all customers.
Scott says he doesn’t want lawmakers to pass a bill telling the Public Service Board what to do in this case, but he says the Governor and the utilities have made the wrong decision.
(Scott) "It’s a huge deal but the $21 million has become the issue but be that as it may I think the $21 million should be paid back to ratepayers before the stockholders get their money."
(Kinzel) Under the agreement, GMP will be able to recoup the $21 million through higher rates in the future. Scott says that simply isn’t fair.
(Scott) "It appears to me that the stockholders aren’t going to have to pay the $21 million. That they’re going to get the benefit of the sale and that the future ratepayers will have to pay this $21 million through weatherization in the future, which will save them money in the future but it doesn’t take care of the past debt."
(Kinzel) Senate President John Campbell agrees with the Lt. Governor. He says ratepayers deserve the money.
(Campbell) "It should be their decision on how they spend it not someone else…we have these folks that are the officers of CVPS that will be making windfall bonuses of up to $17 million – well, maybe those folks want to take their payment in weatherization. I’m sure that they would not be too keen to hear that."
(Kinzel) The Governor says his Administration negotiated a very good deal with the utilities and he doesn’t want to reopen those negotiations.
(Shumlin) "My job as Governor is to get the best deal possible for ratepayers and we believe we got that deal."
(Kinzel) And Shumlin says rebating the money directly to ratepayers isn’t as easy as it sounds.
(Shumlin) "12 years later many of the people that paid in that money are no longer in those homes or no longer alive. Second, for the big money that goes back, which is corporations, it’s hard to get that money back to the original people as well."
(Kinzel) GMP says the $700 million merger could be jeopardized if the utility has to rebate the $21 million to ratepayers, but a number of Senate leaders say they seriously doubt that this is true.
For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier