Utilities save millions because of federal tax reform

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Appalachian Power Company saved $235 million dollars from the federal tax cuts and the company is proposing passing the money back to its customers in a variety of ways.

The multi-pronged proposal is in a filing with the state Public Service Commission due Wednesday. The PSC is requiring all utilities to tell it their tax cut savings and what they plan to do with it.

West Virginia Consumer Advocate Jackie Roberts

West Virginia Consumer Advocate Jackie Roberts told MetroNews the money clearly belongs to the customers.

“They (the utilities) had taxes in their rates and now the taxes in their rates have significantly decreased—so they shouldn’t be able to keep collecting and keeping those higher taxes in their rates,” Roberts said.

Appalachian Power Company Communications Director Jeri Matheney agrees–the $235 million Appalachian Power will save belongs to its customers.

“It is customer money. What we propose to do is provide a method to keep rates as stable as possible over the longterm and as much as possible eliminate the need for rate increases,” Matheney said.

The Appalachian Power distribution proposal for West Virginia customers includes:

–$131 million to completely offset the company’s fuel and vegetation control program funding request that was part of an April filing with the PSC

–$19 million reduction in the company’s base rate case filed earlier this month (taking the $115 million request down to $96 million)

–$51 million to reduce next year’s fuel recovery cost rate case

–$1 million for a pilot economic development grant program

–$30.1 million to return to customers over the next three years

Matheney said Appalachian Power believes these are better options for the tax cut money.

Jeri Matheney

“It makes more sense to use those tax reform dollars to reduce or eliminate the need for rate increases than it does to return tax dollars to customers while at the same time raise customer rates,” Matheney said.

The $1 million pilot program is an effort to help economic development groups recruit new businesses, which Matheney said would help the economy and the company.

Another large West Virginia utility, West Virginia American Water Company, indicated in its filing it will save $11.4 million a year. The savings is also indicated in the company’s latest rate case filing.

“We will work with the Public Service Commission and other stakeholders to address the 2017 Tax Act’s impact on customer rates,” WVAWC spokesperson Laura Martin told MetroNews.

Roberts said the Consumer Advocates Division will be reviewing the filings from all of the utilities to make sure they’ve calculated their savings correctly and to make sure customers receive the most benefit. She said utilities may try and get creative.

“It’s not their money and they shouldn’t get to keep it,” Roberts said.

General testimony from the utilities was due to be filed with the PSC at the end of the day Wednesday. A response filing from the PSC staff and other parties are due July 2.

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