Consumer Advocates and Environmental Groups Call for Review of Electricity Tariff Rise | News, Sports, Jobs

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CHARLESTON – Groups opposed to efforts by Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power to keep three of its power plants operational for the next 19 years want a rethink of a state regulator’s decision to support these plans.

The West Virginia Citizen Action Group, Solar United Neighbors and Energy Efficient West Virginia filed a request for reconsideration with the West Virginia Public Service Commission on Friday.

The groups are asking the PSC to reconsider its order issued on Oct. 12 approving a plan by Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power to make environmental improvements at the Amos power plant in Putnam County, at the Mountaineer power plant in the Mason County and the Mitchell Power Station.

The improvements would allow all three factories to operate until at least 2040.

Companies demand 3.3% increase for West Virginia taxpayers to subsidize environmental improvements at all three factories after regulatory agencies in Kentucky and Virginia deny requests for help with the financial burden improvements. Improvements include changing the way factories dispose of coal ash (CCR) and the way wastewater is discharged from factories (ELG).

The PSC is still expected to approve the rate increases, although the surtax increase for Mitchell was approved in August in an earlier PSC decision.

Lawyers for the West Virginia Citizen Action Group, Solar United Neighbors and Energy Efficient West Virginia allege that the power companies failed to adequately notify the public of the fee increases.

Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power filed a September 8 petition with the PSC to reopen the August case, with the updated PSC ruling coming 35 days later.

Emmett Pepper, legal and policy director of Energy Efficient West Virginia and one of the attorneys representing the three groups, said Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power informed the PSC and the parties in the case as early as September 2 that the cost for state taxpayers for environmental improvements for the three factories would increase from $ 23.5 million to $ 48 million. Pepper argued that the price did not include other costs.

“The possibility that all of these costs would be passed on to customers in West Virginia was not disclosed in the companies’ record, and the public was never made aware of these costs until the Oct. 12 Commission order. that it would recover those costs. costs of West Virginia customers a virtual inevitability ”, Pepper wrote in the file last Friday. “$ 48 million is not the correct number because it does not include several substantial costs that businesses will pass on to customers to complete renovations. “

Since the cost to the West Virginia consumer could exceed $ 48 million, Pepper believes PSC rules that require utilities to publish the amount of rate increases through legal newspaper advertisements. are in force. Pepper also said the legal announcement also didn’t include information about how the public could step in and the company didn’t send notices to customers.

“… The notice in the newspaper did not include instructions on how to protest the rate increase or make a statement at a public hearing.” Pepper wrote.

Pepper accuses the PSC of violating state and US constitutional due process rights due to the condensed delay between the reopening of the case, public and evidentiary hearings, and the new order. The companies said they needed a decision no later than Wednesday, October 13, when the state’s Department of Environmental Protection would need a decision from the companies on whether to start the retirement process for one or more of the three factories by 2028.

Pepper singled out the Mitchell Power Plant, which is half owned by Kentucky Power. While the West Virginia PSC approved environmental improvements and the surcharge to begin work at Mitchell, the Kentucky PSC denied Wheeling Power’s surcharge request. Pepper said the PSC has exceeded its legal authority by requiring customers in West Virginia to pay 100% of the bill for a factory where the state receives only half of the benefits.

“It is in itself unreasonable and contrary to the fundamentals of monopoly regulation of utilities for the Board to force captive Wheeling Power customers to pay tariffs that include both salvage and investment in plant equipment. belonging to a non-jurisdictional public utility which is not necessary to supply energy or capacity to Wheeling Power customers’, Pepper wrote.

“It is further unreasonable to lock Wheeling Power Company on the path to ownership of Kentucky Power’s 50% undivided interest in the Mitchell plant without a record providing substantial evidence that public necessity warrants the new acquisition. energy capacities and resources, and that Kentucky Power’s share in the Mitchell plant represents the cheapest and least risky resource available at a competitive price ”, Pepper continued.

Steven Allen Adams can be contacted at [email protected]

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