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Residents must stop AEP power grab

American Electric Power (AEP) recently rolled out a proposal to increase upfront, mandatory residential fixed fees, called the “customer charge”, from a current $8.40 to $13.40 per month, and another increase in 2018 to $18.40 per month — a whopping 119% increase. This means instead of paying $100.80, customers would pay $220.80 annually, which for many people is like adding a 13th electric bill. AEP, like many utilities, feels the squeeze of stagnating energy sales for a variety of reasons, including improved energy efficiency and greater competition. Probably the biggest reason is the decrease in natural gas prices: unlike other utility companies, AEP bet on coal prices remaining competitively low, and they lost that bet. While we’d all like to see coal do better, Washington County has a much bigger stake in natural gas. Why should we make our locally produced natural gas unnaturally less competitive? They seek to increase revenue through a fixed rate, or a “distribution customer charge” increase. If any of us make a business mistake, we pay for it. We don’t run to a State agency to change the playing field. If AEP’s business decisions made them uncompetitive, it should not be up to us to bail them out!

So, what can we do about it? The Public Utilities Commission is having a public hearing right here in Marietta about this proposed increase on Thursday, April 13, 2017 at 6 p.m. at the Washington State Community College Arts & Science Building in Graham Auditorium. Come and speak about how this rate increase will impact you. If you cannot come, or are unwilling to speak, think about how your family lives on a budget every month. Is a huge increase on your power bill (that you have no ability to reduce or control) fair or doable for your family’s budget? If not, please tell the commission the kinds of choices it makes have a huge impact on your family’s life. Send them a letter: Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, 180 East Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215. Use the AEP case number 16-1852-EL-SSO in your letter. If enough of us speak out, we can stop this rate increase, we can benefit other methods of power generation such as solar, wind and natural gas, and we can put a little more food on our tables.

Richard Wittberg

Marietta