FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- August 09, 2012
Contact: Gregg Ochoa (573) 522-2760
PSC Orders Inquiry Into Impact Of Higher Utility Rates On Missouri’s Low-Income Citizens
JEFFERSON CITY---The Missouri Public Service Commission on Wednesday ordered an inquiry into the impact higher utility rates will have on older or low-income citizens and established a docket to consider rate design changes and methods other states use to reduce the impact of higher utility rates on financially vulnerable citizens.
“In public hearings across the state we are hearing about the impact rising utility rates have on low-income consumers,” PSC Commissioner Robert Kenney said. “By opening these dockets, we are taking steps to help our citizens by exploring the feasibility of establishing a low income rate."
Kenney said that the docket would allow the Office of Public Counsel, industrial utility groups, utilities and advocacy groups such as AARP to file briefs regarding rate designs and other programs to help low-income citizens deal with utility costs.
In its order directing the investigation, the Commission said it will consider the practicality of establishing a rate class for low income citizens, including the effects on company revenues and costs. As part of that, the Commission will consider the legality of establishing a low-income rate class, how income could be verified for participants, the effect of utility bad debt expense and the appropriate rates or rate-formulas for such a class.
In discussing the measure, the Commission expanded the inquiry beyond just a low-income rate class to include exploration of other programs used to assist low-income residents in other states, including California’s Low Income Oversight Board, the Low-Income Program (CARE) and the Family Rate Program (FERA), which are administered by the California Public Utility Commission.
“We began looking at this issue several years ago within the confines of a general rate case, but the issue deserves a more broad-based and comprehensive analysis," Kenney said. “With these orders, the Commission is moving forward to explore all alternatives that are available to help mitigate the impact of rising rates on low-income Missourians.”
The Commission asks that anyone wishing to participate please file initial comments by Sept. 7, and reply comments by Sept. 24. Written comments can be addressed to the Commission at P.O. Box 360, Jefferson City, MO, 65102.