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Archive for Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Bill would allow utility rate hikes before approval

February 1, 2012

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— Kansas lawmakers have been considering a proposal that would allow utility companies to raise rates before the state approves an increase.

The proposal for "interim rates" is contained in a House bill proposed by natural gas companies. The measure was the subject of a hearing this week in the House Energy and Utilities Committee, the Wichita Eagle reported Wednesday.

The bill would allow a utility company to increase rates 30 days after it files with the Kansas Corporation Commission for permission. The company would give refunds if the commission, which has 240 days to consider rate hikes, decides the utility is entitled to less than requested.

The proposed measure would address what utilities call "regulatory lag," said Curt Floerchinger, a spokesman for Black Hills Energy, which is one of the companies pushing for change.

One of the questions is what happens when customers move while a rate case is under way and the utility ends up owing them a refund.

Floerchinger said in states where Black Hills operates that already have interim rates, including Iowa and Nebraska, the company tries to get a forwarding address when customers call to disconnect their service. But that doesn't always work. The Iowa State Treasurer's Office said that state is holding $2.7 million in unclaimed refunds from electric, gas and phone companies.

The Citizens' Utility Ratepayer Board, a state agency that represents residential and small-business consumers, opposes the bill.

"That's a lot of money, I would not like to see a fund like that in Kansas," said David Springe, chief consumer counsel for CURB. "I would like to see the people keep that money and not have it end up in unclaimed property."

The agency has issued a rare call for utility consumers to contact their state legislators and ask them to oppose the bill. Springe said it would overturn 100-plus years of Kansas law that has allowed utility ratepayers a chance to have their say before rates increase.

"One person's 'regulatory lag' is another person's due process," Springe said. "How would a Boeing employee who just got laid off feel about loaning their utility some money?"

A full rate case can take as long as two years, including a "test year" to establish a utility's cost of doing business and the 240 days for the commission to analyze the request and decide how much of an increase to grant. Historically, the commission has seldom given utilities their exact request.

The House committee chairman, Carl Holmes, R-Liberal, said he is not taking a public position but expects to bring the bill up for a vote, probably by next week.

Comments

somedude20 2 years, 5 months ago

This is so dumb. The politicians may be in bed with the lobbyists but it is the people who get "love made" to them

The state would love to have an unclaimed refunds account sitting around (that money would never get back to earned it) that they can use. Remember when it came out that Kansas Sampler over taxed their customers and did not report it to the state. Well old Mr. State billed Kansas Sampler for the difference to line their own pockets and not make sure the customers got their money back

Sure this junk will pass

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CocoaCrystal 2 years, 5 months ago

OMG! The utility companies will be filing for higher rates at every opportunity - our rates will continue to increase! We'll be nickled and dimed in 30-day increments. Utility companies will hope that we won't notice small increases over time -- that we'll get used to them, then it's a done deal. Then the only "regulatory lag" will be consumers trying to get their money back! Fat chance of that happening!

Springe at CURB works very hard for the consumer - ALL OF US - let's make sure we call our representatives and say, "Heck, no!"

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grimpeur 2 years, 5 months ago

Wow. Complete rot. I couldn't find out the sponsor's name(s) in the course of a 3-minute search of the legislative site or of the Wichita Eagle article.

Thanks, Mr. Springe, and to my fellow readers, I say, "make a quick call or e-mail."

This is just wrong.

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CocoaCrystal 2 years, 5 months ago

The KS House Committee on Energy and Utilities hopes to make a decision on this issue by Monday. Time is short - please call Tom Sloan and any or all members of the Committee voicing your objections to HB2144 - here's a link for all the Committee members: http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2011_12/committees/ctte_h_engy_utls_1/

If you haven't visited the CURB page to see what they do for KS consumers, go there http://curb.kansas.gov/ When Black Hills bought out Aquila they knew about the 240-day rate review process. And bet on the electric utilities asking for the same "interim rate" increases.

Here's what's up next--a $$$90 million rate increase: CURB Recommends $11.6 Million Decrease in Westar Rates - CURB filed testimony today recommending an $11.6 million rate decrease for Westar Energy (Westar). Westar is seeking a $90.8 million rate increase in customer rates from the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC). (KCC Docket No 12-WSEE-112-RTS)

CURB is fighting but can't do it alone!

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