Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

January 28, 2013

Virginia electric utility regulation bill up for floor vote in House

BLUEFIELD — When news of SB 1366 hit the papers last week, people responded about the need to curb local utility rates. Former Bluefield, Va., Mayor Cecile Barrett stated that the federal Environmental Protection Agency was to blame for the high utility rates in the area. Barrett and other residents spoke out about their ever-increasing power bills.

“In the last three months, my electric bill has totaled $983.98,” a Bluefield, Va., woman wrote in an email message. “My most recent bill I just received the other day was in the amount of $43.28, a little under $7 of my rent payment. In January, it was $336.62 and in December, $204.08. I do not know how people make it, those that make minimum wage. I am lucky that I make more than minimum wage and still struggle to meet my AEP bill.”

At the start of the 2013 session of the Virginia General Assembly, State Senator Phillip P. Puckett introduced SB 1366, that asks Appalachian Power to delay requesting its biennial rate increase on March 31, and scheduling that process for March 31, 2014, when the utility’s economic outlook may be a little brighter. The House of Delegates is set to take up the same issue during its session today, with a floor vote on HB 2261 expected.

“Delegate Terry Kilgore (R-Scott) serves as the patron of the bill and I am serving as co-patron along with several other members from the Southwest and Southside Virginia,” Delegate James W. “Will” Morefield, R-Tazewell, wrote in response to an email request for comment. “Senator Puckett has introduced an identical version of the bill in the Senate,” Morefield wrote.

“Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli crafted the language of both bills and asked the entire Southwest and Southside delegation to stand in support,” Morefield wrote. “It is our hope the legislation will provide some relief in the future to those struggling with utility bills.”

The Senate committee on Commerce and Labor is scheduled to take up SB 1366 this morning after the Senate Session concludes for the day.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com�

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