At a status conference yesterday Hearing Examiner Ashley Schannauer held Avangrid to account requiring the company to answer discovery about the numerous regulatory enforcement actions taken against Avangrid's other owned utilities in the Northeast and address their record of poor customer service. For example:
In Maine Avangrid subsidiary Central Maine Power was fined $10M by the Public Utility Commission, the largest fine ever levied in the state, for its faulty billing software that resulted in excessive bills for more than 100,000 customers.
In Connecticut the company was fined $2.1M and another $1.3M was disallowed from profits for its failure to properly prepare for Hurricane Isaias, resulting in loss of power for thousands of customers for many days.
In New York the Public Service Commission fined two Avangrid subsidiaries $10.5M for failure to comply with emergency response plans during storms that hit the state in March 2018.
The Hearing Examiner raised two distinct aspects that impact the Avangrid/PNM merger review: 1) whether Avangrid is capable of reliable utility service and 2) whether Avangrid will be truthful and foredooming; both are highly relevant to a determination of whether the Avangrid/PNM merger is in the “public interest,” the applicable legal standard. This is an excerpt from his Order and Bench Request (when a judge or hearing examiner, in this context, requires a party to respond to an inquiry).
The Joint Applicants have failed to disclose any of the penalties and disallowances in the current proceeding, despite their relevance to this case, i.e., the risk that the adequacy of PNM’s service may deteriorate under the direct or indirect control of Avangrid, Inc. ...The service deficiencies of Avangrid’s electric utility subsidiaries are relevant to the Commission’s review of the potential impact Avangrid’s influence will have on the adequacy of PNM’s service if the merger is approved. The Joint Applicants’ failure to disclose this information to the Commission in this proceeding is troubling and is also relevant to the credibility of their witnesses’ testimony and the transparency by which Avangrid and PNM would conduct their business in New Mexico if the merger is approved.
The Order can be read in full here.
As you know we have been researching, gathering evidence, and raising questions about the nefarious actions of Avangrid in other states where they've failed to provide adequate, reliable, and ethical utility service. Avangrid has until May 18th to respond to the Hearing Examiner's Bench Request and we have a week thereafter to respond in full and we definitely have some juicy evidence of their problematic behavior to share....