Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

March 12, 2014

Forum addresses rising utility rates

BLUEFIELD — City residents heard Tuesday about rising utility rates in Bluefield and how they came to be among the highest in West Virginia.

The South Bluefield Neighborhood Association hosted a public forum at Trinity United Methodist Church on College Avenue to discuss recent utility rate hike cases.

The most recent potential rate hike was announced when Appalachian Power, along with Wheeling Power, submitted its annual Expanded Net Energy Cost (ENEC) to the state Public Service Commission. The companies are asking for a $68 million increase in the ENEC to account for the difference between the amount currently being collected and the projected expenditures through the next annual filing period. The increase is designed to help cover the cost of coal, their power plants’ primary fuel.

For residential customers using 1,000 kilowatt-hours a month, the request would raise the average bill to $98.14, an increase of 4.4 percent from the current $94 bill, according to a statement from Appalachian Power.

Besides electricity, Bluefield also pays some of the highest rates in the state for water, natural gas, and sewer utilities, said Blaine Braithwaite, executive director of the South Bluefield Neighborhood Association.

Due to legal precedents set during the 1920s and 1930s, utilities were entitled to a 10 to 12 percent return on their equity, Braithwaite said. This decision was made when utilities were still installing power lines, pipelines and other facilities for the first time.

Even though these facilities have been established, utilities still go before the state Public Service Commission and say they are entitled to receive a 10 to 12 percent return on their investments, he said.

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