Appalachian Power is asking the WV Public Service Commission for a rate increase for the third time in less than a year.

Appalachian is reportedly asking for an 8 percent increase on March 1.

That increase would be in addition to a separate 7 percent residential rate hike that's awaiting final approval from the PSC.

The utility also raised rates by 7.6 percent on July 1.

"Our purpose is to try to be transparent so people can plan for this and know what to expect ... We're holding the line on expenses, but we think the future holds for more rate increases," said Appalachian Power spokeswoman Jeri Matheney.

The company says the major increases are necessary to recoup the costs of coal and to comply with environmental regulations.

Part of the rate hikes will be to recover up to $18.2 million the company spent during the December 2009 winter storm that knocked out power to 237,000 customers in West Virginia.

Allegheny Energy must clean up alleged arsenic releases into the Cheat River watershed from a coal-fired power plant in Preston County or face a federal lawsuit by three environmental groups.

The problem is from coal ash at Allegheny's Albright power plant.

The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, and the West Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club says the company violates the Clean Water Act.

The groups contend Allegheny's own information shows illegal arsenic discharges occurred between July and October of last year.

"Allegheny is responsible for keeping toxic runoff out of the water ... But they haven't done the job. It's time to do the job right, so people and aquatic animals don't pay for Allegheny's ash disposal with harm to our health and safety," said Sierra Club spokesman Jim Sconyers.

Arsenic in drinking water can cause cancer, nervous system damage and other problems.

Allegheny provides electric service to more than 1.5 million customers in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Maryland.


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