(06/16/2009)
COMPANIES REQUESTING UP TO 43% HIKE

AARP asked the West Virginia Public Service Commission to deny a rate hike to Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power companies yesterday, because it will be harmful to people over age 50.

Power companies are seeking rate increases, saying it's the cost of coal that's driving up their costs.

"This rate increase will be devastating for many consumers, especially low income and seniors on fixed incomes," said AARP West Virginia Director Gaylene Miller.

As calculated by the Public Service Commission's Consumer Advocate Division, if this rate increase is granted, residential rates for an average customer will have increased by more than 77% in just 3 years.

The cost of the gigantic electric generation and power line project (PATH) that will cross Calhoun and several WV counties, will be cost-shifted to consumers after the project is completed.

While Gov. Joe Manchin says he will impose a state tax on the project, the costs will be borne by the consumer.

About 300,000 current customers are past due in paying their bill, and about 30,000 have been disconnected.

AARP said that a rate hike will mean more older people will fall behind on their bills and have their service disconnected.

Seniors will eat less, skip medical care, keep their home too cold or too hot, become ill and possibly be hospitalized, according to AARP

Residential customers would see their bills go up 25.6 percent the first year.

AARP says some of the increases actually amount to 80%.

FACTS ABOUT WV ELECTRIC USAGE

* A national survey conducted by the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners found that as of May 2008, West Virginia residential customers:

* Owed over $26 million dollars on their electric bills

* 300,000 accounts were past due

* There were 30,000 terminations statewide.

* A survey conducted by the National Energy Assistance Directors Association found that low income families struggling to pay their home energy bills risk their health and safety took the following risks:

* 32% went without food for at least a day.

* 42% went without medical or dental care.

* 38% did not fill prescriptions or took less than the full dose of medicine.

* 28% kept their home at a temperature that was unsafe or unhealthy.

* 33% used their kitchen stove or oven to provide heat.

* This proposed rate hike follows on the heels of consecutive annual rate increases since 2006.

* As calculated by the Public Service Commission's Consumer Advocate Division, if this rate increase is granted, residential rates for an average customer will have increased by more than 77% in just 3 years.

* Telephone, energy, water, and sewer services account for about 5 percent of an average household's monthly income.

* For older Americans with annual incomes of $10,000 or less, utilities account for as much as 24 percent of their monthly income.

* On average, families spend a greater share of their income on utility costs than on other necessities such as health care or property taxes.

* Average utility expenditures for households headed by people age 65 and older increase at a rate faster than inflation.

* Between 2004-2007, electricity costs went up 7.6% while inflation was 3.3% for the same period.


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