Attorney General Martha Coakley stepped up her demands yesterday for a thorough review of National Grid’s expenses amid the utility’s push for the biggest gas rate hike in Bay State history, even as a top executive defended the company’s spending.
“These expenses that we uncovered during our review certainly raised red flags and we requested the audit to ensure that ratepayers are protected,” Coakley spokesman Corey Welford said.
But National Grid executive Nick Stavropoulos insisted that shareholders – not ratepayers – covered the executives’ expenses.
“We’re a completely open book,” said Stavropoulos, adding that Grid has responded to 2,600 questions, attended 25 hearings and produced 14 witnesses since the rate review began in April. “We’re happy to provide information to any process.”
The Herald reported yesterday that National Grid bosses charged the company hundreds of thousands of outlandish expenses – including private school tuition, veterinary bills and a shipping charge for an executive’s wine collection.
The eye-popping expenses were uncovered during Coakley’s review of National Grid’s request for a $106 million rate hike – the largest in state history.
Coakley found National Grid honchos had expensed $3,566 to repair a washing machine and a swimming pool cover and $546.57 for face cream. One executive billed the company $443.93 for credit card fees that were accrued in a dispute over a $5,101.04 plane ticket, which the company also paid for.
Meanwhile, Gov. Deval Patrick’s gubernatorial rivals called on him to dig deeper into the operations of the British behemoth.
“There has been a consistent lack of transparency and oversight in the utility provider market in Massachusetts,” said state Treasurer Tim Cahill, who is running as an independent. “The governor should be acting in the best interest of Massachusetts taxpayers, not the top executives of National Grid.”
Added GOP candidate Charles D. Baker: “National Grid’s request for the largest rate increase in Massachusetts history is adding insult to injury to ratepayers.”
Even state energy secretary Ian Bowles commended Coakley “for her leadership.”
“I’m confident the (Department of Public Utilities) will continue to hold the utilities’ feet to the fire on inappropriate expenses,” Bowles said.
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