Sen. Payano, Area Reps. Call on Regulator to Roll Back ‘Unfair and Deeply Damaging’ Electric Rates

Lawrence City Councilor Pavel Payano. (Courtesy photograph.)

Newly sworn-in Sen. Pavel Payano and Rep. Francisco Paulino joined a number of area legislators last week urging the state Department of Public Utilities to roll back its approval of higher electricity rates in light of dropping oil prices.

Payano, one of Haverhill’s new senators, and freshmen Reps. Paulino, representing Lawrence and Methuen, and Adrianne P. Ramos, now representing Boxford, Groveland, North Andover and West Newbury, were among those legislators statewide signing a letter to DPU Chair Matthew H. Nelson. Other area representatives included Reps. Frank A. Moran, Lawrence and Andover, and Tram T. Nguyen, Andover, Boxford, North Andover and Tewksbury.

“The sky-high electricity prices are putting increased stress on residents and businesses across our state. Working-class families especially are feeling the brunt of the price hikes. Winter utility bills are double, if not triple, what they were last winter, and with the rising costs of many goods and services, I am deeply concerned about the current and future financial well-being of our residents,” said Pavel Payano in a joint statement.

The letter’s lead authors, Reps. John Barrett and Smitty Pignatelli and Sen. Paul Mark, explained the electric companies cited the high price of oil, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and rising inflation, but noted oil prices have since fallen dramatically.

“With cheaper oil, utility companies have been able to generate extreme profit for themselves at the expense of Massachusetts residents. It is the DPU’s duty to protect our citizens from unfair and deeply damaging prices,” the letter reads.

In the separate statement, Paulino added “The price increase of electricity is forcing many working-class families of Lawrence and Methuen to choose between paying the electricity bill, buying enough food, or paying rent. Our communities are suffering the impact of the biggest inflation of the last 40 years and these price increases are decreasing the quality of life in the Merrimack Valley.”

Moran agreed, saying, “Due to the urgency of this matter, I joined my colleagues in the legislature to urge the Department of Public Utilities to reevaluate this decision so that our constituents are able to be safe and warm in the winter months ahead – and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Lawrence state delegation to address this issue in the upcoming legislative session.”

The letter omits any reference to the utility regulator’s “revolving door” between industry and government that critics say favors industry interests.

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