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Official: Conn. tax impacting Ashburnham

Sentinel & Enterprise

By Michael Hartwell @sehartwell on Twitter

ASHBURNHAM -- Stan Herriott, manager of the Ashburnham Municipal Light Plant, said he'd like to see the attorney general investigate a Connecticut law that is pushing up electricity prices for municipal-owned utility companies in Massachusetts.

In 2011, Connecticut passed a law on energy produced within its state that impacts customers both inside and outside the state. Ashburnham draws some of its power from the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant in Waterford, Conn., and Herriott said at its current rate, the tax pulls about $60,720 annually from ratepayers in Ashburnham, or about $0.50 for each residential customer.

"The state of Connecticut voted a tax on the ratepayers of Massachusetts," said Herriott. He said the tax is relatively small now, but it's impossible to predict what it will be in the future.

"Next year they could double it, or even do away with it," said Herriott. He said the town also gets power from the Seabrook Station Nuclear Power Plant and he's concerned the state of New Hampshire could copy Connecticut and impose an energy tax as well.

Ashburnham gets 24 percent of its electricity from nuclear power. Of that, 3,036 megawatt hours come from Millstone and the remaining 5,544 megawatt hours come from Seabrook.

Herriott said he's not alone among public utility company officials in the state who oppose the tax.

In May 2011, shortly after the tax was passed, the Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Company released a statement criticizing the Connecticut energy tax, calling it unconstitutional and a way to force Massachusetts consumers to help solve Connecticut's state budget problems.

Utilities like Ashburnham's purchase their electricity through MMWEC and the release revealed that MMWEC owns 4.8 percent of one of Millstone's two nuclear reactors. They cost MMWEC $1.2 million annually.

David Tuohey, director of communications for MMWEC, could not be reached for comment.

Christopher Loh, press secretary for Attorney General Martha Coakley, said he could not confirm or rule out if MMWEC has attempted to contact Coakley's office for help in opposing the tax.

Herriott said Millstone has a "haircut provision" that will cause MMWEC to forfeit its share of Millstone if the tax is not paid.

"If you fail to pay your bill, you lose your interest in that claim," said Herriott. He said there is no way to avoid paying the tax without losing the investment in Millstone.

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