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Archive for Thursday, July 11, 2013

Dozens speak against Westar Energy’s proposed rate increase and plan to ‘re-balance’ rates

July 11, 2013

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— Westar Energy customers on Thursday strongly criticized a proposal by the utility to increase residential rates while reducing electric rates paid by big businesses.

A standing-room-only crowd of more than 80 people packed a hearing room at the Kansas Corporation Commission, with more participating via videoconferences set up in Hutchinson, Salina and Pittsburg.

Westar's proposal would increase rates on average residential customers by $7.50 per month.

It would raise residential bills by 8.8 percent and small businesses by 6.2 percent, while decreasing industrial bills by 8.4 percent and bills that public schools pay by 7.6 percent.

In all, Westar has proposed raising residential rates by a total of $62 million and small business rates by $21.5 million, while decreasing big business rates by $46 million and public school rates by $3.6 million.

Westar says the overall rate increase is needed to pay for environmental upgrades at its coal-burning La Cygne power plant.

The utility said the rates have to be "re-balanced" because big businesses are paying more than the cost of their service, said Jeff Martin, Westar's vice president of regulatory affairs

"That is not good for Kansas jobs or the economy and it's also not very fair," Martin said.

But dozens of speakers disagreed.

Rabbi Moti Rieber, with the Lawrence Jewish Community Congregation and director of Kansas Interfaith Power and Light, said increasing the rates on low-income residents was "immoral."

"Why are we having to shoulder such a large proportion of this rate increase?," asked Dennis Pickering of Pittsburg. "We have no way to pass on our expense whereas a business, if their rate goes up, they pass it on."

Westar's Martin said factories' electrical needs are more steady and predictable than those of a typical home.

But Robert King, who retired from Goodyear in Topeka, said at Goodyear, the electrical use varied greatly every day.

Bob Woolin, with AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons), said raising residential rates while reducing big business rates is similar to Gov. Sam Brownback's tax plan that cuts taxes for the wealthy while doing away with deductions that help the poor.

"In our rush to make Kansas appear to be pro-business, we are making Kansas appear anti-resident," Woolin said.

Maren Turner, director of AARP-Kansas, said the increase will force some elderly residents to chose between paying their utility bill and buying food or paying for medicine.

The Citizens' Utility Ratepayer Board, which represents residential customers and small businesses, says the proposed increases are out of line.

Since January 2009, Westar has received 18 rate increases, for a total of $469 million, said David Springe, consumer counsel for CURB.

An average summer residential monthly bill was $74 in the summer of 2008. With the proposed increase, that would go to $115, which is 55 percent higher than five years ago, he said.

But Westar's Martin said the utility's pricing still is a bargain. He said Westar's residential customers pay 15 percent below the national average.

The KCC will accept written comments from the public through Sept. 23. Comments regarding the case should reference Docket No.13-WSEE-629-RTS and should be sent to the Kansas Corporation Commission Office of Public Affairs and Consumer Protection, 1500 S.W. Arrowhead Road, Topeka, Kansas 66604-4027. Comments may also be submitted by email to public.affairs@kcc.ks.gov.

The KCC has until Dec. 2 to make a decision.

Comments

patkindle 1 year, 5 months ago

depending on where you lived before, or what rates you are comparing tool, westar residential rates may not be that expensive, just saying

George_Braziller 1 year, 5 months ago

Where one lived before and what one was paying there isn't relevant. It's like comparing the cost of housing in San Francisco with the cost of housing in Eudora.

elliottaw 1 year, 5 months ago

You should be able to choose what companies you want to use, they use this system in other states helps companies from having a monopoly and changing rates on a whim

tomatogrower 1 year, 5 months ago

Really? Kind of like in California where they deregulated and the rates shot up?

usesomesense 1 year, 5 months ago

"In our rush to make Kansas appear to be pro-business, we are making Kansas appear anti-resident," Woolin said.

I think this is a pretty great comment about the state of our state. It's always important for both ends to realize they need each other. Workers need businesses and businesses need workers and customers. If I didn't already live here I'd have a very difficult time wanting to move here - even if there was a great opportunity due to the uncertainty of what will be.

Hooligan_016 1 year, 5 months ago

Maybe this might encourage some residents to look into alternative means of producing electricity ... solar!

Hooligan_016 1 year, 5 months ago

Before other comments jump all over me, I'm just tossing something out there to consider as long term future developments. We all know coal etc isn't going to last forever and we need to start thinking of alternative solutions. You now may commence the bashing.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 5 months ago

Cut the CEO pay package by 75% Eliminate CEO stock options Eliminate lobbyists Eliminate political campaign donations Eliminate the retirement bonus aka golden parachute Eliminate corporate jets and expensive cars from the budget Eliminate dinners and such with politicians Eliminate executive bonus packages

Richard07 1 year, 5 months ago

In a typical year what percentage of Westar's total operating cost does their executive pay package represent? Somehow I don't think slashing their overall compensation package as you note would have much effect even short term. Your proposed mandate "rolls off the tongue" nicely, however, and reminds of some of the 1970's anti-war hippie protester signs. Power to the People!!

Richard Heckler 1 year, 5 months ago

--- Cut the CEO pay package by 75%

--- Eliminate CEO stock options

--- Eliminate lobbyists

--- Eliminate political campaign donations

--- Eliminate the retirement bonus aka golden parachute

--- Eliminate corporate jets and expensive cars from the budget

--- Eliminate dinners and such with politicians

--- Eliminate executive bonus packages

ksjayhawk74 1 year, 5 months ago

Hey now. We're just trying to keep rates from increasing. With all those crazy plans our yours, the rates could probably be cut in half. No one want that.

brutus 1 year, 5 months ago

There's only enough coal for 1,000 years or so................

hillsandtrees 1 year, 5 months ago

"The coal we burn today was millions of years in the making. We continue to extract and burn vast amounts of it. Given current trends, we’ll run out of it in 225 years or so. In human terms, we have a few generations to figure this out. In geologic time, it’s almost gone."

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/coal/2012/11/coal_reserves_in_the_united_states_geology_explains_why_we_have_so_much.2.html

sciencegeek 1 year, 5 months ago

Sounds like the Brownback version of "fair and balanced", i.e. stick it to the little guy.

Larry Sturm 1 year, 5 months ago

I don't know but big business probably already pays a lot less per kilowatt hr. than residential.

thinkingaboutstuff 1 year, 5 months ago

I hope people who have an opinion on the rate increase request will take the time to email their comments to the KCC at www.public.affairs@kcc.ks.gov or call your comments into KCC at 1-800-662-0027. Writers here have made some good points, and I would encourage you to make your voices heard. If rate payers take a few minutes to voice their opinions, maybe we CAN make a difference.

goodcitizen 1 year, 5 months ago

15% lower than the national average.... Are our incomes higher or lower than the national average? 55% increase in average electric rates in the last 5 years.... Have our median incomes gone up 55% in the last 5 years?

Richard Heckler 1 year, 5 months ago

Climate Change rules meaning coal power must go no matter what. Cleaner energy sources is the smart and fiscally responsible direction of choice.

Union of Concerned Scientists http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/

Centerville 1 year, 5 months ago

Thank our legislature for voting to force all our electric companies buy hugely expensive generating capacity, so they could all feel good about themselves. And an even bigger scam is coming down the pike when we have to start paying for the cost of building transmmission lines all the way across Kansas to send all of our wind generation to Indiana. Oh, and we'll have an additional charge on our bills to keep that scam in operation. Those charges are outside any state oversight or approval. And our income taxes are going to get wind generation going...again. Our electric bill is becoming so loaded with junk that it's impossible to just pay for some electricity.

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