Rate hike fast track
POSTED: Thursday, May 12, 2011 - 7:13pm
UPDATED: Friday, May 13, 2011 - 5:17pm
One way or another, your electric rates are going up.
The Legislature is working on a compromise bill that would allow providers to raise rates without a hearing with the Public Utility Commission.
KETK has talked with a co-sponsor of the bill in the House, and yes, it gives utility companies virtual carte blanche to raise your rates.
They call it streamlining the process.
Critics call it devastating.
The legislature has a lot on it’s plate. Budget deficits, redistricting and more have to be done this session.
But one bill has come as a bit of a surprise, and seems on the fast track to becoming law.
Power poles, transformers, wire, it’s a big investment providing power to a big city.
But utilities can recoup that investment from ratepayers but only after a full rate hearing with the Public Utiity Commission.
But under a new bill that will become law, that process is streamlined. Consumer advocates say customers are getting the shaft.
“Yes, it would be a lot easier,” says Kate Galbraith of the Texas Tribune. “And consumer groups are concerned. There is a provision to do a comprehensive look at this rate case later after 4 of these smaller and easier rate processes had been done.”
“And you can imagine, they could do one a year for 3 years, and that 4th one they could hold off for 3 or 4 or 5 years,” said Tim Morstad of the AARP. “And so, you don’t hit your trigger to have a full rate case and a full review of expenses until 7 or 8 years later. And that that point really it becomes too late to piece together what was a reasonable expense and what was a reasonable increase to pass on to consumers.”
Rep. Sylvester Turner of Houston offered an amendment that would at least cap the size of the rate hike.
It was defeated.
Morstad concluded, “It insures that rate increases can come quickly and with little review.”
KETK has learned that before deregulation, Texas had the 30th highest electric rates in the country.
Now, we’re 17th.
And it’s about to go up again.
To see a summary of the bill, click the link here.