Delegate Ward Armstrong will introduce legislation during the 2010 General Assembly Session to address citizen concerns over the numerous and frequent rate hikes implemented over the past several years by Appalachian Power (APCo).
Armstrong announced his intentions to introduce the legislation Monday.
Appalachian Power had requested 13 separate rate increases since 2005. In December, APCo received two rate increases: a 12.2 percent increase in the base rate and a 2.7 percent increase for transmission charges, raising residential electric bills an average of 15.5 percent.
In speaking with my constituents over the past year at county fairs, town hall meetings, and at their doors, the top concern is higher electric rates, said Armstrong. People are choosing between purchasing food and medicine or paying their electric bill. Our families and our local businesses which drive our economy are suffering.
Armstrongs legislation will return APCo to the form of cost-of-service regulation that applied to electric utilities prior to deregulation in 1999.
A second component of Armstrongs legislation will consolidate electric utility rate increase requests, eliminating stand-alone adjustments. Currently electric utilities can petition for stand-alone rate increases for a multitude of reasons including transmission upgrades, environmental upgrades, and energy efficiency programs among others. Under the new legislation, utilities would have to bundle their requests, requiring these costs to be treated on the same footing as other costs and addressed in biennial rate reviews.
In addition, utilities will no longer be able to bill customers for rate increases before they are approved by the State Corporation Commission (SCC). Under current law, utilities are able to bill customers pending a decision by the SCC, and are required to return the funds should the SCC deny the petition.
Finally, eligible electric utilities including APCo will be required to offer economic incentives to businesses looking to locate or expand operations in the commonwealth. Businesses creating 75 full-time jobs per 1,000 KW of new load or making a capital investment of $400,000 per 1,000 KW of new load will be eligible to receive a credit on their electric bill for a set period of time. This legislation will allow localities such as those within the 10th House District to compete with neighboring localities when recruiting new industry.
This package of legislation is intended to protect consumers, concluded Armstrong. Times are tough and everyone must tighten their belts including Appalachian Power. Enough is enough.