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PUC hearings address West Penn’s proposed rate hike

The state Public Utility Commission held two hearings Wednesday, July 10, at Butler County Community College on electric service rate increases proposed by FirstEnergy for all four of its subsidiaries, including West Penn Power and Penn Power

West Penn Power has requested an increase of $169 million which, if approved, would increase the bill for a typical residential customer by $16.61, or 10.6%, for a new monthly total bill of about $173. The bill for an average commercial customer would increase $61, or 4.6%, for a total bill of $1,374.

Penn Power has requested an increase of $55 million which would increase the typical residential customer’s bill by $21.30, or 11.8%, for a new monthly total bill of $201. The bill for an average commercial customer would increase by $61, or 4.1%, for a total bill of $1,549.

FirstEnergy proposed the rate increases in April, and asked the PUC to allow the new rates to take effect June 1, but the PUC voted to investigate the request and is conducting seven public input hearings through July 12.

The last two hearings are scheduled for Thursday in Greensburg and Friday in Washington

Hearings were held at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Wednesday at BC3 before Administrative Law Judge Katrina Dunderdale. No Butler County customers attended the 1 p.m. hearing.

People unable to attend a hearing, but wish to testify can participate in hearings being conducted via telephone at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. July 16 and 17. The deadline to register is 4 p.m. Friday. People can register through email by contacting Dunderdale’s legal assistant Mary Swarner at mswarner@pa.gov or by calling Dunderdale’s office at 412-565-3550.

At the Wednesday afternoon hearing, Dunderdale said the PUC also will conduct evidentiary hearings in Harrisburg Aug. 15 and 16.

Dunderdale said she and fellow Administrative Law Judge Emily DeVoe will issue a recommended decision on the rate increases by Oct. 15 to the full, five-member PUC. The PUC will render the final decision by Jan. 1.

FirstEnergy said the rate proposal is designed to benefit more than two million customers by continuing the company’s work to reduce or minimize outages throughout its service territory and enhancing services. Highlights of the rate review proposal include:

According to the rate review proposal submitted to the PUC, FirstEnergy said it would modernizing the grid with automated technologies that can prevent or reduce the scope and duration of power outages, increasing inspections of overhead circuits and transformers to identify and replace aging equipment, convert about 85,000 streetlights to energy-efficient LED, remove more than 2.4 million trees that pose a threat to poles and wires along 14,000 miles of line over the next 10 years, create an energy assistance outreach team to increase awareness and participation in energy assistance programs for low-income customers, eliminate service fees for customers to pay their electric bills by credit card and create an electric vehicle pilot program that provides rebates for licensed electricians to install home chargers and other incentives to buy EVs.

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