Connecticut Attorney General's Office

Press Release

Attorney General Argues Before U.S. Supreme Court To Uphold Public's Right To Contest Excessive Power Rates

November 3, 2009

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal today argued before the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the public's rights to contest unreasonable and excessive electricity rates.

Blumenthal, appearing before the nation's highest court for the fourth time, urged justices to uphold a lower court ruling affirming the right of states and citizens to challenge unfair and unreasonable power prices. A group of power companies is seeking to overturn the ruling, arguing prices result from private contracts that cannot be challenged by regulators or citizens.

"I am fighting before the nation's highest court to protect the public's right to seek more affordable electricity -- and to assure power prices are fair and reasonable, as mandated by federal law," Blumenthal said.

"I am urging the justices to reject Big Energy's power grab to prevent states and individuals from contesting unfair and unreasonable electricity rates. The power companies' argument that power prices result solely from private contracts is deeply disingenuous, ignoring the vast and vital role played by state and federal regulators in setting prices, as well as the federal requirement that rates be fair and reasonable.

"Power companies can contract among themselves, but consumers and states must retain their long-established right to challenge resulting rates that are unfair and unreasonable. Power producers, already making windfall profits, are seeking to undermine states' and individuals' authority to contest excessive prices, even as Connecticut suffers under the highest electricity costs in the continental United States."

The case stems from a settlement between some New England power companies, regulators and federal authorities over new charges to ratepayers intended to encourage power plant construction. Blumenthal's office opposed the settlement, arguing that the charges were unnecessary to promote construction and were in fact an unearned windfall to power producers. In doing so, he argued that the resulting rate increases were neither fair nor reasonable, as required by federal law.

Blumenthal appealed to the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) approval of the settlement, arguing that it unfairly and illegally restricted the rights of states and consumers to challenge rates that are unjust and unreasonable.

The Court of Appeals agreed with Blumenthal's argument, prompting the power industry to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.