For months now, we have widely cussed and discussed what would happen if Kentucky Power’s proposed double-digit rate increase is approved. Starting next month, when the Public Service Commission holds three public hearings in our region, we need to make sure the commissioners hear our concerns loud and clear. While I appreciate these relatively local meetings, I feel very strongly that three are not enough. Commissioners need to visit each of the 20 counties affected, so they better understand what would happen if already too-high electricity bills are raised 16 percent higher. At the very least, the commissioners should be meeting in Pike County, which is home to more than 33,000 of the company’s 168,000 customers in eastern Kentucky.
Recently, I was proud to welcome Attorney General Andy Beshear to Pikeville and to hear him say he and his office would join us as an ally. He understands that the rate increase would be devastating for families already struggling to make ends meet, and it would have an outsized impact as well on our schools, churches and businesses.
I have heard numerous sad stories from those who say they have sacrificed things like food and medicine just so they can pay their electricity bills. They are already living paycheck-to-paycheck, with a fourth having incomes at or below the federal poverty line.
It is beyond ironic that a region that has helped to power our nation for more than two centuries is now struggling to keep the lights on. It’s not right, and it’s not fair.
We have to ask: How many would lose their homes or basic services if this is approved? How many would turn to the state at a time when the state itself is facing major cuts?
It’s not like Kentucky Power’s parent company, American Electric Power, is facing similar distress. Its stock price has almost tripled since 2009, and it has risen by a fifth or so in the last year alone. According to the Attorney General, AEP’s profits – its PROFITS – have exceeded $15 billion over the past decade.
But that’s not enough, apparently, which is why they want almost $65 million more in this latest request.
It is time we take a stand and push back. I will not be happy if they only get half, or even a fourth. I will only be happy if the request is withdrawn or rejected. That is the only right and moral thing to do.
We have to turn up the heat now, before winter leaves too many stranded in the cold. We risk a very real emergency if nothing is done, and we cannot allow that to happen.
If possible, please consider attending one of the hearings, all of which begin at 5:30 p.m. Prestonsburg will host the first on Thursday, Nov. 2. It will be held in the Pike Building Auditorium on the city’s Big Sandy Community and Technical College campus.
Hazard will host the next meeting, which will be on Monday, Nov. 6, in the auditorium of Perry Central High School. The third meeting will be on Wednesday, Nov. 8, in the Bellefonte Pavilion in Ashland.
In addition to the public meetings here, the PSC will conduct an evidentiary hearing at its Frankfort office, beginning at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 6. The hearing, which is expected to last several days, will be open to the public and may be viewed live on the PSC website, psc.ky.gov.
If we are to make a difference, these meetings are where and when it will largely happen. My hope, and the hopes of many, many others, is that the commissioners will truly hear our concerns. They need to know that, simply put, we just can’t give any more.
If you would like to let me know your thoughts on this or any other issue affecting Kentucky, I am easy to reach. My address is Room 429I, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort KY 40601; or you can email me at Angie.Hatton@ lrc.ky.gov.
To leave a message for me, call toll-free at 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.
I hope to hear from you soon.