Rocky Mountain Power blasted over 29-percent rate hike request
LANDER — It was unanimous Monday night among politicians and residents: Rocky Mountain Power’s (RMP) – and parent company PacifiCorps’ – proposed near 30-percent rate hike for Wyoming energy users should be rejected by the state commission charged with its oversight.
RMP has pointed to increases in the cost of fossil fuels as driving its request for about $190 million in combined new rates.
In two separate filings, the company has asked for an average 21.6-percent rate increase to cover an annual $140.2 million in additional payments, along with an average 7.6-percent hike to recoup just over $50 million of around $90 million in extra few costs and power overruns last year.
The company also wants to move from its current cost-share agreement – from ratepayers currently responsible for 80 percent of the bill for fuel overruns – to 100 percent.
But those who gathered at Central Wyoming College and online during a public hearing on the rate increases on Monday, Sept. 25, were not convinced of the company’s justification for the rate hikes.
They pointed to PacifiCorps’ spending on renewable energy projects and transmission lines to send the power to other Western states, coupled with what they said was a failure for RMP to lock in on competitive MCF natural gas rates as it moves away from fossil fuels.
“It’s the green energy policy that drives this whole debate,” said former state legislator Eli Bebout, adding that RMP made a “conscious decision” not to lock into a better rate for oil and natural gas. “They made that decision. Why is it the responsibility of us, the consumer, to pay for their mistake?”
Kristen McClelland of Riverton told the members of the Wyoming Public Services Commission that the rate increase would nearly put the small oil company she works for out of business.
“There is no safety net for the citizens, for the working man,” she said. “We don’t get a safety net when we make bad business decisions. … When the oil prices crash and everybody around here loses their jobs, there’s no safety net for those families. There’s nobody coming for someone to save the day for us. We should get the first benefits off our coal and oil and natural gas. … There are people in this room that that rate increase will break their families. We cannot sustain this.”
State Rep. Lloyd Larsen told the commission that the drive for the rate increases stems from the company’s spending on renewable energy projects and transmission lines to carry the energy into markets like Oregon, Washington and Northern California. If they want Wyoming’s wind, he said, we’re happy to provide it.
“My problem with that is, it’s not Wyoming residents that are demanding that type of generation. … If that’s what they want then let their rate payers pay the burden of those assets.”
He said RMP’s failure to lock into better fuel rates was a bit “self-inflicted,” and a gamble that didn’t pay off. “They made the wrong calculations, and I think that they need to bear the burden of those costs, and not the ratepayers.”
Several commenters said the increases would be an unbearable burden to small business owners in Wyoming, including oil and gas companies, and would exacerbate an already volatile market.
And every household budget that’s already strapped by inflation will hurt if the increases are passed as is, they said.
“This may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” State Rep. Sarah Penn said. “At what point do we say, ‘Enough is enough’?”
Sam Shumway, state director for AARP of Wyoming, questioned what might happen if the commission were to deny the company’s rate hike request.
“It looks like the only negative impact to them will be that their shareholders will make less money,” he said.
“I think this is a grab to enrich Warren Buffet and shareholders at the expense of Wyoming citizens,” added Greg Findley of Lander. “Many of us are struggling to put food on the table.”
Dan Adelmann said he’s raising four children in Wyoming, and said all the negative things on the horizon don’t bode well for businesses or families.
“I want my kids to be here, but if they can’t find jobs, there is no future,” he said.
There’s still time to provide feedback to the Wyoming Public Services Commission on RMP’s rate hike request. One more public meetings is being held to gather comments, planned for
Thursday, Oct. 12, in Casper at the Thyra Thomson State Office Building, 444 W. Collins Drive, Roundhouse conference room # 3024, from 5:30-7:30 p.m.
The meeting may also be attended by Zoom at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/9933449233, or by telephone by dialing 1-669-900-9128 or 1-253-215-8782 (Meeting ID: 993 344 9233).
Comments may also be submitted via email at [email protected] or mailed to 2515 Warren Avenue, Suite 300, Cheyenne, WY 82002.