By Nick Mallard


FITCHBURG -- Unitil Corp., which provides gas and electricity services to North Central Massachusetts residents, including Townsend, is proposing to raise its rates by about 0.3 percent.

Attorney General Martha Coakley says that's too much.

Coakley released a statement opposing the rate-hike proposal in advance of a public hearing planned for today at Memorial Middle School in Fitchburg. Residents in the utility's service area will have a chance to voice their opinions at the hearing, which begins at 7 p.m.

Coakley is making her opinion known in advance.

"We believe that this request is an excessive increase for customers in Central Massachusetts, especially after having just increased rates within the past two years," the attorney general said in a statement. "While utilities must have the resources to improve their storm response and infrastructure, this large jump in revenue is simply too much to ask of ratepayers at this time."

In addition to releasing a statement, a member of Coakley's staff will attend the hearing to argue against the rate hike, which was filed with the state Department of Public Utilities.

The rate case is equivalent to a 0.3 percent increase, or 40 cents a month at 600 kilowatt hours. Customers from Ashby, Lunenburg, Fitchburg and Townsend will be able to present their own questions and concerns at the 7 p.m. meeting, according to Unitil spokesman Alec O'Meara.

Hampton, N.H.-based Unitil is looking to increase revenue by $6.7 million and the creation of a $2.


8 million storm-reserve fund. From the total increase of $9.5 million, $5.3 million would go toward costs incurred by Hurricane Irene, the Halloween snowstorm in 2011 and Superstorm Sandy last year, according to O'Meara.

The storm-reserve fund would be established in January 2015 with a $6.3 million cap.

He also said the increase is expected to be offset by expiring transition surcharges. O'Meara said there will be a $12.6 million decrease due to the transition rates ending, falling into the same time frame as the establishment of the storm reserve.