Power companies seek rate hike in 40 counties

PARKERSBURG – Monongahela Power and Potomac Edison proposed rate increases of 15 percent and higher for residents of 40 West Virginia counties.

The two public utilities filed a petition for significant rate increases in the Charleston office on April 30, said communications director Susan Small with the state Public Service Commission in Charleston.

The two electricity companies announced a base rate increase and a total rate increase once surcharges were accounted for, according to the announcement posted in The Parkersburg News and Sentinel by the companies on May 7 and 14.

When surcharges are accounted for, the proposed rate increases will be 15.85 percent for residential customers, 14.54 percent for commercial customers, 10.12 percent for industrial customers and 25.07 percent for street lighting, the announcement said.

Surcharges included by name in the request are for vegetation management and mercury and air toxic standards, the announcement said.

The announcement said the rate increase will take effect on May 30.

“That deadline will be suspended,” Small said. “It hasn’t been yet, but the Public Service Commission will suspend it in order to allow for public comment and investigation,” she said.

The May 30 deadline will be suspended for 270 days, preventing the new rates from settling in until Feb. 24, 2015, Small said.

In the meantime, citizens will have the opportunity to present their positions regarding the proposed rate increase in writing, Small said.

The potential rate increase has officials with the AARP concerned, said assistant state director for communications with AARP Tom Hunter.

“Any rate increase has a significant impact on those who are on a fixed income,” Hunter said. “These people are often elderly and have no job to depend on, so the rate increases affect them greatly,” he said.

The reasons behind the rate increases include the cost of recovery from Superstorm Sandy and the 2012 derecho storm, as well as recent determinations from the Public Service Commission stating that public utilities such as electricity companies need better plans to keep vegetation away from the lines to prevent future severe power interruptions, Hunter said.

The AARP plans to engage in the discussion and monitor the progress of the case closely, Hunter said.

Those wishing to submit a protest to the rate hikes should reference case number 14-0702-E-42T in their petition, Small said.

“Knowing which case number a protest belongs to allows us to properly file that document with the case,” Small said.

All documents will be considered in the Public Service Commission’s final decision on the rate increase, Small said.

Written protests should be mailed to The Executive Secretary, Public Service Commission of West Virginia, P.O. Box 812, Charleston, WV 26554.

Citizens wishing to keep up-to-date with information can view all documents related to the proposed rate increase by visiting www.psc.state.wv.us/, clicking on Case Information in the menu to the left, and putting the case number in the search option, Small said. All documents received will be scanned in and available to the public at this location, she said.