Cumberland Times-News

Local News

July 15, 2014

FirstEnergy rates could go up in W.Va. next year

‘Necessary’ price increase requested totals about $103M

— ROMNEY, W.Va. — Charlene Gilliam, manager of external affairs for FirstEnergy WV, told the Hampshire County Commission during Tuesday’s meeting that public comment for a rate increase will be held in the fall.

“There will be no increases until February,” Gilliam said.

Commission president Steve Slonaker asked, “What would the increases be then?”

“Between 15 and 17 percent,” Gilliam said.

Gilliam handles eight counties in the state: Hampshire, Hardy, Jefferson, Berkeley, Morgan, Mineral, Pendleton and Grant.

She said the rate increase is necessary and one-third goes to tree trimming and two-thirds will be used for storm restoration and recovery.

In April, FirstEnergy and subsidiaries, including Potomac Edison, submitted a request to the West Virginia Public Service Commission for a rate increase of $96 million. A second request was made in April amending the first request and asking for an additional $7.5 million, which would cover costs associated with reading customer meters every month to comply with a Public Service Commission order. The total requested rate increase is about $103 million.

Gilliam spoke for nearly an hour about FirstEnergy’s enhanced program.

“The WV PSC ordered us to develop a plan (regarding outages),” said Gilliam.

The five-year plan was approved by the PSC in April.

Gilliam spoke about updates on the FirstEnergy website and rapid reply to outages.

Commissioner Bob Hott disagreed.

“Prior to FirstEnergy, people came to my house and spoke with me eye-to-eye. I’m very disappointed in FirstEnergy,” Hott said.

Hott said one repair in the area would be done one day and the crew would leave and not come back to the same area for a day or more.

“More than ever I’m resetting my clock because the electric goes off,” Hott said.

Gilliam said FirstEnergy has a webpage that shows outages as they occur and are repaired.

Hott said that the website is not updated and it did not show outages where he knew they were.

Gilliam showed the commissioner photographs of trimmed areas under power lines.

The commissioners’ consensus was the picture was not reality.

“We see limbs that have been trimmed lying all over the place,” said Hott.

“What I think would help is to get some of these guys with ties on to come down and see what’s actually going on. They need guidance at a higher level,” Hott said.

All three commissioners commended Gilliam on her thorough presentation.

Contact Marla Pisciotta at marlapisciotta@frontier.com.

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