Senator Smith is cosponsor of bipartisan bill
FRANKFORT — Senator Ray S. Jones, II (D-Pikeville) has filed legislation that could offer relief from high electricity rates in economically distressed counties.
Senate Bill 147 would require the Public Service Commission (PSC) to reconsider previous electricity rate increases in economically-distressed counties and to consider whether future increases would have adverse economic impact on the citizens of those counties. In cases involving retail electric suppliers that have economically distressed counties in their service territory, the bill states that “the assumed rate of return on investment shall be no more than six percent (6%).” The most recent PSC decision allowed Kentucky Power to recover a 9.7% return on investment while the national average rate of return for electricity utility is 10%.
Under this legislation, PSC would have the authority to modify, repeal, or replace rates and charges that do not meet established criteria.
“The economic downturn and financial hardship of the past 10 years has had a significant impact on the people of eastern Kentucky,” said Senator Jones. “We have some of the most poverty-stricken counties in the nation. I live in one of the areas that has been devastated by the loss of coal mining and mining-related jobs. We have a lot of struggling families who are trying their best, but jobs – good jobs – are scarce. Many families are paying a disproportionate percentage of their income for basic utility services.
“Every day I hear from people who say to me, ‘Ray, I don’t know how much longer I can pay these electric bills,’” he added. “It is not uncommon to have ratepayers with power bills in excess of $1,000 — and many of them are on fixed incomes. We have to help these folks.”
Senator Brandon Smith, R-Hazard, cosponsor of the bill, shares the same concerns as Senator Jones.
“Ratepayers in eastern Kentucky are struggling to manage their budgets on a monthly basis with the continual rate increases,” Senator Smith said. “The hikes on these people who have suffered enough simply is unacceptable.”
The bill further states that within six months of when a rate increase appears on the bill, ratepayers may file a petition with the PSC for a rehearing of the rate increase approval. Within 60 days of receiving a petition with 1000 signatures, the PSC shall hold a public hearing and review the evidence supporting and opposing the increase. Testimony from ratepayers would be heard. The PSC shall render a decision about the rate within 60 days of the hearing.
After the rehearing, ratepayers may appeal the original commission decision to the Franklin Circuit Court.
Senator Jones represents Senate District 31 that includes Elliott, Lawrence, Martin, Morgan, and Pike counties. Senator Smith represents Senate District 30 that includes Bell, Breathitt, Johnson, Leslie, Magoffin, and Perry counties.