Commissioners call on legislature, PSC to stop utility hikes

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CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — West Virginians could see their utility bills go up as both Appalachian Power and West Virginia American Water have requested rate increases.

Local officials are taking two approaches to stop or limit the hikes.

Two years ago was the last time West Virginians saw a utility rate increase after a settlement with state regulators put a two-year moratorium on any hikes.

“They waited about two seconds until the two years was up and then of course asked for another raise,” said Kanawha County Commissioner Kent Carper.

Carper says the rate increases are systemic and need to be stopped.

He estimates, if passed, the utilities will charge the average Kanawha County resident another $100 a year.

“They’ve got nothing to lose; they asked for 18%, they’ll take whatever they can get and then turn around and do it again,” said Carper.

It’s why the commission is calling on the legislature to pass a law to stop this, or to convince the Public Service Commission to renew the moratorium.

“Similarly, even though West Virginia American Water’s 168,000 customers currently pay the highest water rates in the state, the company recently filed with the Public Service Commission to implement an astounding 28% increase,” reads the letter addressed to Senator Eric Nelson and signed by all three Kanawha County Commissioners.

The Public Service Commission has the final say and that’s who the Cabell County Commission addressed their letter to.

“People are still out of work, the government is still helping with unemployment and things that it’s not even a good time to apply for a rate increase,” said Cabell County Commissioner Jim Morgan.

Morgan says the timing is terrible, but companies like AEP and WVAW for their part have cited infrastructure improvements to their power lines and the recent ice storms in the area as reasons for the increase.

“We understand that it costs money to do that but we’re asking them to look for other savings methods so that even if it is necessary to have a rate increase it won’t be the size that they’re asking for,” said Morgan.

Morgan says PSC chairwoman Charlotte Lane has not replied to the Cabell County Commission’s letter.

The PSC will hold a virtual, public hearing on the matter on Tuesday, June 8.

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