Merger compromise fails to quell merger controversy

Until a few minutes ago, the lone merger-related amendment in the House was an explosive bit of language requiring utilities to send checks totaling $21 million to CVPS ratepayers.

A few moments ago, we got a sneak peak at amendment No. 2 – a less aggressive measure wherein legislators ask the Department of Public Service Board to “examine whether in the current merger docket it has proceeded in a manner consistent with its obligations…”

Not surprisingly, the language isn’t terribly popular among supporters of amendment No. 1, who call it a milquetoast half-measure that will do little to right this perceived wrong.

Both amendments – and possibly a third – will get up-or-down votes in the House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development later this afternoon. No. 1 will fail. No. 2, it appears, will succeed.

The underlying bill, we’re told, will arrive on the House floor Thursday, when both amendments will get a vote on the House floor (it’ll be interesting to see how many lawmakers take a walk on that one).

Conventional Statehouse wisdom says the amendment No. 1 – the one forcing utilities pay back directly the $21 mill – will fail. Rep. Paul Poirier, however, says not to believe the doubters.

“I absolutely think it will pass,” Poirier said. “I really do.”

Amendment No. 2 is a nonbinding resolution that makes mention of the $21 million controversy without rendering judgment on the utilities’ proposal to satisfy the “windfall obligation.”

The resolution reads, in part:

“Whereas, as details about the proposed merger and the MOU have become known by the general public, the people of our state have expressed a range of concerns about matters directly and indirectly affecting them and

Whereas, among those concerns is a strong sense that GMP should not recover in future rates the windfall proceeds now due CVPS ratepayers, as currently proposed in the MOU, and

Whereas, there is disagreement among the general public as to the best mechanism for returning the $21 million in windfall proceeds to CVPS ratepayers and …

Whereas, many residential ratepayers have expressed the view that their interests have not been thoroughly considered and have not been memorialized in the MOU…”

As Poirier said earlier today, “things are coming to a head.”