By agreeing to hold a “home energy workshop” in the Letcher County Courthouse next Tuesday, officials with Kentucky Power Company and the Kentucky Public Service Commission are rightfully acknowledging the angry messages they have been getting for much of this winter from citizens upset over huge increases in their monthly power bills.
While their willingness to leave their offices in Frankfort to come to Whitesburg to speak with homeowners about ways to conserve energy is to be commended, the Kentucky Power and PSC representatives also need to take the time while here to address the real reason people are so upset — the PSC’s approval of two Kentucky Power rate increases totaling 31 percent in four years.
This week, PSC Chairman David Armstrong wrote a letter to The Mountain Eagle acknowledging that high heating bills “have made an already difficult economic situation even worse for many.” Armstrong blames the higher bills on the “weeks of unusually cold weather” which have gripped the region — making no mention that the rate increases approved by PSC might also be a culprit. If Armstrong, a former Kentucky Attorney General, is here for next week’s gathering, we hope someone will ask him why our state’s PSC caved in and gave Kentucky Power a 17 percent rate increase last July, when just six months later the West Virginia Public Service Commission held strong and limited rate increases for two AEP subsidiaries in that state to a much more reasonable seven percent.
While Armstrong says the PSC is “very aware of the hardships facing many state residents,” someone should ask him how much thought the Commission put into its approval of a rate increase that has resulted in many mountain families having to go without food and needed medicine during these winter months just so they can pay their power bill. Someone should also ask Armstrong for an explanation of why the bills for Letcher County homes and businesses seem to be so much higher than in the other 15 mountain counties served by Kentucky Power. One reader goes into great detail in our “Speak Your Piece” column this week to explain that a comparison of bills from one month last winter to a similar month this winter shows an actual rate increase of 29.98 percent. Is this why our power bills have shot up so astronomically? These are the kinds of questions that demand proper answer from the PSC and Kentucky Power.
Also attending next Tuesday’s gathering in the Letcher Circuit Courtroom, scheduled to begin at 6 p.m., will be home energy effi ciency experts from the Kentucky Housing Corporation and the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, as well as representatives from the Leslie-Knott-Letcher-Perry Community Action Agency (LKLP). Hopefully, they and the PSC and Kentucky Power representatives will be able to find help for those having trouble paying their power bills and to provide assistance for those wishing to weatherize their homes.
However, the question must be asked: If Kentucky Power and the PSC knew this latest huge rate increase was going to cause such economic hardship to so many, why didn’t they sound the alarm much earlier? Why wait until mid-February to hold a “home energy workshop” when they knew the problem was coming at least eight months before?