“In just three days I communicated with almost 2,500 families in my district who oppose these rate hikes,” said Armstrong. “People are hurting and the last thing they need is another rate increase. Every time we turn around Appalachian Power is asking for another increase. At a time when all of us are looking for ways to tighten our belts and make do with less, APCo just keeps asking for more.”
The State Corporation Commission heard from members of the public who wished to speak with regards to a request filed by Appalachian Power Company on May 15, 2009, wherein Appalachian seeks to recover from its customers more than $100 million. Appalachian alleges that this sum was spent in order to comply with state and federal environmental laws and regulations and for transmission and distribution system reliability between July 1, 2004 and December 31, 2008. The SCC has already approved one APCo rate increase this year. Aside from the request for an increase that Armstrong and Reynolds opposed Thursday, two other requests by APCo are still pending as the SCC has not yet held hearings on them. If all four are approved, the average monthly bill of a residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity would increase by more than 27 percent compared to rates in May 2009.
As Appalachian Power has become increasingly aggressive in its requests for rate hikes, Armstrong has become increasingly aggressive in his opposition. Residents of the 10th House District recently received mail from Delegate Armstrong asking them to return a detachable postcard in opposition of the rate increases to the State Corporation Commission.
“It is my hope that thousands of residents will return these postcards to the SCC,” said Armstrong. “I have been submitting written objections, testifying at hearings, and speaking publicly against these rate hikes for over a year, but Appalachian Power and the SCC are ignoring the concerns of the people of Southside and Southwest Virginia. If everyone sends in these postcards, the SCC and APCo will find us hard to ignore.”
Senator Reynolds, on behalf of his constituents in the 20th Senatorial District, appeared at the hearing and spoke against Appalachian’s request, reminding the SCC of the adverse economy in Southwest Virginia. He further indicated that unemployment in Southside and Southwest Virginia is more than twice the average unemployment rate in Virginia.
He pointed out that any increase would cost jobs and force consumers to decide what additional necessity to do without in order to pay additional costs for electricity. Senator Reynolds and Delegate Armstrong were the only speakers from the public at the hearing.
Bill Carrico, who represents the Twin Counties in the Virginia House of Delegates 5th District, said he plans to voice his opposition to the rate increases at a pair of November public hearings in Southwest Virginia. Carrico said he plans to do so at a public hearing about the rate increase Nov. 18 at 6 p.m. at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon and another on Nov. 19 at 6 p.m. at Franklin County High School in Rocky Mount.
“We’ve sent letters opposing any more increases and we plan to speak at those two hearings. We have requested the SCC come out here so they can have hearings in this area, which has never been done before. We are doing that so our constituents have a chance to speak and don’t have to drive to Richmond to do so,” Carrico said. “We’ve been opposed to the rate increases they have received. The increases have hurt the people as far as their ability to meet the rising costs, and we are requesting that the SCC be fair in their decisions and understand the impact it will have on our constituents if they raise it anymore.”