Juneau hearing sought in electric rate increase

Posted: Friday, May 21, 2010

Members of the Juneau legislative delegation have weighed in with the Regulatory Commission of Alaska, seeking a hearing on the 22 percent rate increase sought by the city's utility.

Alaska Electric Light & Power asked for the rate increase, saying it was needed to cover the costs of building the new Lake Dorothy Hydroelectric Project, as well as increased costs since its last rate increase.

Sen. Dennis Egan and Reps. Beth Kerttula and Cathy Munoz have requested the public hearing, saying Juneau residents, who faced the cost of two avalanches in the last two years, are concerned about the proposed increase.

"These changes have caused a great deal of fear and consternation among all Juneau residents," the three wrote.

The letter did not specify that the hearing should be held in Juneau, rather than the commission's Anchorage offices, but implied that it should.

The rate increase proposal has resulted in confusion and questions, they wrote.

"The opportunity to address government decision-makers responsible for approving or modifying electricity rates will lead to better communication and a more open public process," the three said.

RCA spokeswoman Grace Salazar said two weeks ago a public hearing is typically held in Anchorage for commission members to question utility executives and consultants on the technical details of how they developed and justified the rate increases.

A "consumer input" hearing is not always held, though several Juneau residents have already made requests similar to the legislators' request.

Salazar was unavailable for comment Thursday about the likelihood of a hearing in Juneau.

AEL&P President Tim McLeod said the company was not opposed to a public hearing in Juneau.

"Whatever the regulatory commission rules on that part of the procedure, we're happy with," he said.

Written comments may be filed on the RCA website at rca.alaska.gov through June 4.

AEL&P hopes to have interim approval of a 18.5 percent rate increase by June 18, and a permanent 22.1 percent increase approved within 14 months. The rate increase would be staggered during the month, and would take effect first on the bills going out just after approval.

Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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