National Grid spending probe likely

ALBANY -- As state regulators wrestle with National Grid's plan to raise electric rates in upstate New York by $370 million, the state Public Service Commission is considering whether to start a separate investigation into the company's accounting practices.

One of the major issues in the rate case has been over how National Grid allocates spending through its subsidiaries -- and whether consumers are unfairly footing the bill for costs such as moving executives to the United States from the United Kingdom where the utility is headquartered. Regulators believe that National Grid has improperly billed consumers nearly $30 million for such expenses.

The issue, which was first uncovered in a management audit of the utility, has become so contentious that the five-person PSC may decide to tackle it separately from the rate proceeding, which is expected to be put to a vote in January.

At the commission's monthly meeting on Thursday, Wayne Brindley, the chief of the accounting and finance department of the Department of Public Service, discussed the issue with the commissioners.

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