Residents Comment on Pot Ed Rate Increase
Residents made their concerns known during the West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC) public hearings in Shepherdstown Tuesday.
PSC Commissioner John McKinney, PSC staff, as well as Potomac Edison representatives, stopped to hear comments on the pending FirstEnergy rate case.
FirstEnergy (Mon Power and Potomac Edison), requested a 9.57 million dollar rate increase for West Virginia customers to cover costs associated with a PSC order requiring the company to read electric meters monthly.
The Public Service Commission made the formal order last spring following a lengthy investigation into FirstEnergy’s unpopular billing practices.
Comments at Tuesday’s hearing ranged from a push for energy efficiency programs, concern over FirstEnergy shareholder earnings, and many questions about customers’ future bills.
Shepherdstown resident Marc Petitpierre called the Public Service Commission a ‘farce.’
“You are not acting on what people are telling you,” he said.
Shepherdstown resident Woody O’Brien called Potomac Edison’s proposed increase ‘financial fraud.’
“This isn’t an increase. They’re asking you to endorse their fraud,” O’Brien said addressing the PSC.
Local resident Danny Chiotos raised concerns about senior citizens and those living on a fixed income.
“This isn’t just people complaining about paying more or looking for the best deal. This is people who have no other choice. Potomac Edison is the only game in town,” he said.
“This is a bill that many people in West Virginia Jefferson, Morgan, Hampshire, Grant, can’t afford.”
Maurice Smith, president of the Jefferson County chapter of the AARP, suggested the company absorb the costs themselves.
“At the rate they’re paying their executives, it sounds to me like they have a surplus there,” he said.
Potomac Edison spokesperson Mark Durbin said $7.5 million of the approximately 17 percent increase for residential customers will go toward hiring and training new meter readers.
The remainder of the cost would go toward things like repairs from the ‘Derecho’ and Hurricane Sandy, tree trimming practices and operational costs at regulated power plants.
“The whole idea here is to try to make the service we provide to customers as topnotch as possible,” he said.
When asked if Potomac Edison explored alternatives to a bill increase, Durbin said, “Nothings ever easy when it comes to the utility business.”
Durbin also responded to concerns about affordability.
“What customers should do, is call us and we’ll work with them the best we can,” he said.
Following continued public input, the rate case is subject to approval by the PSC. A decision is expected to be made in late February 2015.
For more information, visit the Public Service Commission online at www.psc.state.wv.us.