AEP/Kentucky Power should be forward looking
In order to comply with new clean air standards by 2015, American Electric Power/ Kentucky Power has put forth a request to the Kentucky Public Service Commission to shut down their coal-burning Big Sandy power plant. Originally, AEP had requested to retrofit the Big Sandy plant with pollution controls at the cost of nearly $1 billion to ratepayers in order to keep producing coal power at that location. They withdrew that request in May. Now, the proposal on which the Public Service Commission is taking comments consists of shutting down the Big Sandy plant and spending $536 million to buy a 50% share in a coal-burning power plant in West Virginia. This is estimated to raise utility bills by 8%.
Last week the Public Service Commission held public meetings in Louisa, Hazard, and Whitesburg to gather comments on Kentucky Power’s proposal. KFTC members in these communities used these hearings to ask questions, share concerns, and project a vision for better long-term investment. Elizabeth Sanders shared in Whitesburg that “AEP/KY Power should be forward looking. The choices you and KY Power make will affect our southeast Kentucky not just today, not just tomorrow, but years and years down the road. That’s why I choose to be here today.”
Ada Smith of Mayking and Mimi Pickering of Whitesburg asked important questions of the PSC to clarify the proposal and what it could mean for their electric bills and future rate increases. These clarifications included facts that AEP has not yet made a proposal for clean up and shut down of the Big Sandy plant, which will be an additional cost to ratepayers down the road. The PSC also confirmed that since AEP already owns the Mitchell plant in West Virginia, they are essentially asking ratepayers to pay for AEP to sell the plant to themselves, since Kentucky Power is an AEP subsidiary.
After the PSC shared a presentation about AEP’s proposal and the process to approve such proposals, Ada Smith reacted to a component of the process called a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN), a set of PSC requirements including demand-reduction measures. “As a Kentucky Power and AEP customer here, I’ve seen no efforts by the company to reduce demand. If they have claimed to this, I don’t know how they are letting customers know about it.”
Elizabeth Sanders added in her statement “an 8% increase is still outrageous when there are better options out there. This is not a reasonable price for customers. These rates are neither fair nor just given that this is not the least-cost option.”
The coordinator of a local home repair ministry, Fern Nafziger of Hindman, shared concerns based on her work “to provide warm, safe, and dry housing for low-income, elderly, and others with needs in the surrounding communities.” Her message of possibility, opportunity, and commitment to community resonated in many of the public comments to the PSC.
“We all deserve the right to be able to afford basic needs like paying our power bills. I am speaking today for my work and community, because I believe we can make the right choices to provide a brighter future for all people living in substandard housing.
Instead of suffering as American Electric Power continues to increase our rates and move jobs to another state, the Public Service Commission should demand that we make changes here in our communities to transition to a better way of life and a higher standard of living. We could meet AEP’s energy demands and meet our own needs by building new and renovating existing homes to be more energy efficient.
AEP has the opportunity to provide job training and help their laid-off plant employees transition to new careers in building construction and as building analysts, ensuring that the energy efficient building practices are adopted in our communities. This investment could apply to developing a least-cost reasonable option for the Public Service Commission.”
Written comments will be accepted until May 29th by email on the Public Service Commission website, PSC.ky.gov or by mail to P.O. Box 615, Frankfort, Ky. 40602.