Giving thanks for stopping a power utility ripoff attempt

Appalachian Power Company tried to use a shady accounting stunt to justify an unneeded rate increase but the SCC wasn't buying.

When we sit down for dinner, or balance a plate in our lap, as we watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on TV, we can thank the many people who have helped keep us alive during the pandemic that continues to grip this nation: Nurses, doctors, health care workers, first responders, the Centers for Disease Control and a driven doctor named Antony Fauci who stood up when our government dropped the ball.

On this morning before the day we officially give thanks, let’s also give a shout-out Virginia’s State Corporation Commission for rejecting an unnecessary rate hike increase by Appalachian Power Company.

Although the utility company that holds a monopoly on our electric power earned good profits in the last three years, it claimed it needed to raise rates “to maintain service and stay competitive in the energy market.”

“Horse hockey,” as my maternal grandfather used to say in an attempt to avoid a stronger obscenity he preferred to use.

Like so many in this COVID-19 Coronavirus, we struggle to pay necessary bills like the power statement that arrives each month from an income that has sunk by more than 80 percent in the last eight months. The rate increase wanted by APCo would have added at least $10 a month to that bill and, frankly, that’s $10 that most of us can’t afford.

Appalachian tried to justify the increase with an accounting stunt that would include earl retirement of coal-fired power plants six years ago as an “offset to earnings.”

“Unconscionable,” declared the Virginia Attorney General’s office.

The SCC’s order Tuesday said:

In sum, the Commission finds that the company has not met its burden to establish it was reasonable to conclude that these costs were no longer probable of future recovery and record such as an asset impairment in December 2019.

The Virginia Poverty Law Center agreed:

Many Virginians in Appalachian’s service territory were struggling to make ends meet even before an unprecedented public health crisis coupled with an economic recession gripped the nation.

Now would be the worst possible time for the commission to authorize an electric rate increase for Appalachian’s customers — especially one that is premised on questionable interpretations of Virginia law or ‘unreasonable” or ‘unconscionable’ accounting tactics.

APCo also wanted to nearly double its “basic residential service charge” from $7.96 to $14 a month.

“No way,” the SCC responded.

APCo could have used some of its profits over the last three years to isssue refunds for customers but that was apparently never considered.

On Thanksgiving, we thank the Virginia SCC for looking out for us.

© 2004-2022 Blue Ridge Muse

© 2021 Blue Ridge Muse