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Judge: Lower profits on NE power line projects


BOSTON (AP) — A federal judge has ruled that New England electric transmission companies should make less money on power line projects, a decision Massachusetts’ attorney general said could lower electric bills.

The ruling by Administrative Law Judge Michael J. Cianci Jr. would reduce the allowed profit on New England transmission projects from 11.14 percent to 9.7 percent.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission still must make the final decision.

The judge’s ruling came after Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office made a complaint to the commission in 2011. Numerous New England regulators and utilities joined the complaint.

Coakley said Wednesday that New England ratepayers “have been overcharged for years.” She said the ruling could mean $145 million in annual savings for New England ratepayers by 2017.

“Our office has long argued that current electric transmission rates are excessive and place too high a burden on businesses and families,” she said.

Robert Rio of the Associated Industries of Massachusetts said the possible savings represent real relief for state businesses, which pay some of nation’s highest electricity rates.

But regional utilities noted several significant steps remain before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission makes its final decision on the profit rate.

Fred Kubler, a spokesman for National Grid, said the current rate is fair and lowering the profits on transmission projects could decrease much-needed investment in new transmission.

“That investment ultimately benefits our customers and our communities,” he said.

Northeast Utilities spokeswoman Caroline Pretyman said infrastructure investment is particularly important “as the nation strives for more extensive use of renewable energy, and needs transmission to move wind and solar generation from remote areas to where the energy is needed most.”



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