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Anonymous letter claims agency too close to utility

November 23, 2018

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — Vermont utility regulators made public an anonymous letter that claims a state department that works on behalf of consumers in utility rate cases is tied to the state’s largest electric utility.

The letter alleges Department of Public Service staffers were told not to raise claims against Green Mountain Power following a recent 5.45-percent rate hike request, Vermont Public Radio reported. The letter calls the department’s position a “sham.”

A former state official who left the department over its handling of the GMP rate increase request says he will tell regulators what he knows.

“In my opinion the letter accurately reflects the Public Service Department’s overall approach to the Green Mountain Power rate case prior to my departure,” Brian Winn, who until recently was the director of finance and economics at the department, wrote in a Friday email to VPR.

Winn said he could confirm some, but not all of the allegations in the letter. He plans to write a detailed response that he will as a public comment to the Public Utility Commission.

The department works on behalf of utility ratepayers in cases that go before the PUC, which regulates utilities in Vermont.

Commissioner June Tierney says the letter was “an attempt to destabilize the PUC process itself and to suggest that there is cause to not have confidence in the decisions the PUC ultimately renders.” Tierney doesn’t believe the letter came from within her department.

Public Utility Commission Chairman Anthony Roisman says the commission posted the anonymous letter on its website to give both parties the opportunity to comment.

GMP spokeswoman Kristin Carlson says the inference that the department has been soft on the utility is wrong and that letter made factually inaccurate assertions.

“This rate case has been a really rigorous, thorough process that has extended over months and months. There’s been expert analysis, there’s been public hearings, public involvement,” Carlson said. “This case is fully litigated and right now it rests with the PUC and nothing in the case has been decided yet.”

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Information from: WVPS-FM, http://www.vpr.net

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