Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

September 29, 2012

APCO requests rate hike

BLUEFIELD, Va. — Electric rates could again be going up in Virginia with a 0.2 percent rate increase proposed by Appalachian Power Friday.

According to a statement issued by APCO, the company has requested the Virginia State Corporation Commission grant a 0.2 percent increase to update their Renewable Portfolio Standards. If approved, the average APCO customer in Virginia would see a $0.27 increase on their monthly bill beginning in August 2013.

Bluefield, Va. Mayor Don Harris said he is opposed to any rate increases.

“Any rate hike has an adverse effect on residents in Bluefield,” Harris said. “In the past, I have appeared before the State Corporation Commission on behalf of the citizens of Bluefield to protest these rate hikes. I don’t know how significantly a $0.27 rate hike would impact our residents, but on the other hand, I am always opposed to any rate increase.”

Tazewell County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mike Hymes said the proposed increase could negatively impact those on fixed incomes.

“I am disappointed to hear that APCO has requested another rate increase given the state of our local economy,” Hymes said. “I know 0.2 percent doesn’t seem like a large increase to many people but to residents who are on fixed incomes, those that have had their work reduced or been laid off, an increase of any amount difficult to manage.”

Hymes said frequent increases to electric rates are one of the reasons county officials are looking into alternative fuel sources.

“I am sure our board will object to the increase as we have done in the past,” Hymes said. “Increases of this type are why our board appointed a committee to pursue natural gas as an alternate competitive source of residential energy.”

State Senator Philip Puckett, D-Russell, also expressed frustration at the proposed increase.

“I am not very surprised there is an increase request,” Puckett said. “We just had one for a fuel adjustment increase, which I don’t understand since most utility fuels are going down.”

Puckett said the recent announcements of several coal mines being shut or idled in Southwest Virginia makes the proposed increase that much more “disappointing.”

“This doesn’t sound like much, but they have gotten every rate increase they have asked for,” Puckett said. “I will be working to keep this from happening. There will be a public hearing, and we will be working against it. It is discouraging to see this in the current times. The coal industry is taking a hit in Southwest Virginia, and then increasing rates on top of this is disappointing. I am very disappointed to hear this. I hope we have a chance to speak on this and keep our rates from going up.”

Delegate James W. “Will” Morefield, R-Tazewell, said the news of another proposed increase is “frustrating” for many Virginia residents.

“I oppose any increase proposed by Appalachian Power even though the projected increase will only impact the average bill 27 cents per month,” Morefield said. “Folks that are living on a fixed income simply cannot afford any further rate increases. I’d also like to say it’s very frustrating to me when I heard elected officials say that we need an all of the above energy policy because to me that says they haven’t done their homework. In reality, what we should be focusing on today is what form of energy is the most cost efficient to our country.”

Morefield said he does not believe “renewable energy” is the best choice in light of recent rate increases.

“The simple fact is that renewable energy is not a feasible form of energy simply because it cannot compete with the price of coal and natural gas under current market conditions,” Morefield said. “Our state governments and our federal government should not be subsidizing renewable energy to the tune of billions of dollars at the taxpayers’ expense with our country $16 trillion in debt. I really don’t know what it’s going to take for folks to realize that it is imperative we adopt a common sense energy policy in this country. Ultimately, the increase in the price of gasoline, electricity and food is associated with the cost of energy.”

— Contact Kate Coil at kcoil@bdtonline.com

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