Topeka Kansas City Power and Light says the private meeting it had Nov. 18 with a member of the Kansas Corporation Commission, in which they discussed a matter now pending before the regulators was "absolutely" appropriate and allowable under Kansas law.
And she said an attorney from the KCC's general counsel office was present during the discussion.
"Obviously we wouldn’t have had an inappropriate conversation and invited the KCC’s attorneys there as well," said KCPL spokeswoman Katie McDonald. "We wanted to make sure that it was absolutely an appropriate conversation, and so we waited until the rate case was completely over."
The document disclosing the private conversation was filed over the New Year's Day weekend, about the same time KCPL filed a new rate case, officially known as a "tariff," in which KCPL seeks to give its Kansas customers who use electric heat during the winter a break on their utility bills.
The document does not mention that a KCC attorney was present in the meeting, but it is co-signed by Samuel Feather, KCC's deputy general counsel.
The proposed new tariff is aimed at giving those customers some relief from the rate shock they experienced when the KCC drastically cut the all-electric discounts that had been in place since the 1980s.
The conversation between KCPL officials and KCC Commissioner Pat Apple took place just after the KCC had closed a 2015 rate case in which, on a 2-1 vote, the commission declined to revisit the issue of those discounts. Apple was the one commissioner who wanted to reinstate all or part of those discounts.
In the document, KCPL said the conversation did not involve any matters that were pending before the commission at the time. But it was filed over the New Year's Day weekend in conjunction with a new request by KCPL that would, in effect, offer those customers some relief over the next five years.
The notice of communication and the new rate filing were the subjects of extensive discussion Tuesday at a meeting of the Citizens Utility Ratepayer Board, an agency that represents residential consumers and small businesses in utility rate cases.
Board members of CURB voted to intervene in the case, expressing concern that the relief given to all-electric customers would come at the expense of "general use" customers who use natural gas or other sources of heat in the winter.
CURB staff members also said that KCPL had not provided any information explaining how the program would affect individual customers.
But McDonald pointed to a document that was filed along with the application, written testimony from Darrin Ives, KCPL's vice president for regulatory affairs, explaining how the program would work.
In that testimony, Ives said that under the proposed plan, all current rates and discounts would remain in effect. But qualifying all-electric customers would receive a credit based on their winter usage that would be applied toward future bills.
Ives said the average all-electric customer would receive credits of about $140 the first year, ratcheting down to about $30 in the fifth year, for a total of about $425 over the five-year period.
To pay for that, Ives said, the average "general use" customer would see an increase in electric bills between 0.5 percent and 1.5 percent.