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N.H. Ratepayers Lose in Bid to Support Electric Plan

Fortnightly Magazine - September 15 1997

U.S. District Court in New Hampshire has denied a move by customers and ratepayer groups to intervene in litigation on electric restructuring simply on the basis that they wanted lower rates.

The court said that a general desire to pay lower rates was not specific enough to intervene in the lawsuit, which was filed by several large electric utilities to challenge elements of the plan for competition approved in February by the state Public Utilities Commission. See, Re Restructuring New Hampshire's Electric Utility Industry, Order No. 22,514, 175 PUR4th 193 (N.H.P.U.C.).

Even so, the court did allow intervention by several utility parties, including an electric cooperative and several smaller electric distribution companies.

The ratepayer groups denied intervenor status included: Cabletron Systems Inc.; Office of the Consumer Advocate of the State of New Hampshire; the city of Manchester, N.H.; Campaign for Ratepayers Rights; Retail Merchants Association of New Hampshire; and Community Action Programs of New Hampshire. These groups had claimed a right to participate in the case to protect their interest in "lower electricity prices." Representatives said that any decision by the court invalidating the restructuring plan would frustrate their expectations.

Regardless of such expectations, the court said they were common to all ratepayers and too broad to justify an intervention in the lawsuit. "Without a stopping point," the court added, consumers could simply raise their claims anew each time that the PUC might revisit the issue of restructuring or otherwise modify its current plan for electric competition. Public Service Co. of New Hampshire v. Patch, No. 97-97-JD, June 12, 1997 (D.N.H.).

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