Editorial: Rising rates

Running that air conditioner during the triple-digit-temperature days of summer apparently is about to get more costly for homeowners and small businesses ­– and cheaper for big business.

If the Kansas Corporation Commission, which has been having its own problems of late, agrees with a rate request from Westar Energy, that’s exactly what’s going to happen. A public hearing on the matter is scheduled tonight in Topeka.

“Small-business owners, those people up and down Massachusetts Street, should be hopping mad,” said David Springe, consumer counsel for the Citizens Utility Ratepayer Board, which objects to the rate shift.

A KCC that should be red-faced about its own internal problems is considering Westar rate hikes that will hammer small businesses and residential customers while lowering rates for large businesses. The increased revenue will allow Westar and Kansas City Power & Light to lock onto about $38 million for improvements at the LaCygne power plant. Westar maintains that the rate shift is being done in fairness to large users who supposedly are paying more than their fair share.

This particular request from Westar is one in a series of approved and pending increases that accelerated starting in 2009. They involved general rates, transmission line rates, environmental rates, energy efficiency rates, a property tax surcharge, “wind costs in fuel charges,” and others. Assuming it’s authorized, along with the other pending requests, typical Lawrence residential customers will see their electric bills go from $123 a month in 2008 to $196 this year.

Written comments will be accepted from the public by the KCC through Sept. 23.

Springe, who contends the rate request is way out of line, is urging consumers to make their concerns known. Hey, it can’t hurt!