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Rocky Mountain Power rate hike hearings have ended with the decision still up in the air


The hearings for a potential utility rate hike wrapped up. If approved, it’d be one of the largest increases in state history and many say they can’t afford it.

After seven days of court-like testimony, the Rocky Mountain Power rate hike hearings with the Wyoming Public Service Commission (WPSC), the state group that is in charge of regulating public utilities, concluded .

“I first want to thank all the parties for such an entertaining week,” WPSC Chairwoman Mary Throne said.

She and two others will decide whether to approve, deny or amend Rocky Mountain Power’s rate hike request, which amounts to a $140.2 million increase to its nearly 144,000 Wyoming customers. This comes after a separate, smaller request that’s already been implemented, but yet to be fully approved. This means a total of about a 30 percent increase – about $20 extra per month for customers, although some say it could amount to much more.

“I do appreciate all the work and effort that went into this extensive case and appreciate your participation here in person today and those who participated as witnesses remotely,” Throne said. “We have a large record to consider.”

Normally, hearings don’t take quite so long, but this case is super complicated. There’s things like sharing band incentives, debt to equity ratios and multi-state requirements (Rocky Mountain Power, also known as PacifiCorp, serves six states).

The company had a lot of data to make their case. Their main reason for raising rates has to do with the higher cost of doing business, that included claiming fossil fuel prices are volatile and unpredictable weather related to human caused climate change.

“These market forces driving higher power costs are largely outside of the company's control, and reflect broader market dynamics and resource supply issues across the region,” said the company’s Adam Lowney at the hearing.

But, the public and advocacy groups spoke out against the request everyday, reiterating what’s been said since the company first announced the request in spring.

“The reality is that we have people who are giving up food and medicine to keep the lights and gas on,” Rep. Bill Henderson (R-Cheyenne) said. “That's the reality.”

Wyoming Industrial Energy Consumers represents some of the commercial customers of Rocky Mountain Power. Their lawyer, Thor Nelson, picked apart the company throughout the hearing, arguing that the company’s reasonings and calculations for rate hikes were flawed, and that only so much of their costs can be legally passed onto Wyoming customers.

“Because the utility is a monopoly you can see why the law in Wyoming gives the commission the difficult job of carefully matching the costs incurred by the utility with the benefits delivered to customers,” Nelson testified. “To make sure that the price paid by customers is not unreasonable or unjustly high.”

He argued the company might only be entitled to a $14.9 million rate increase – about $125.3 million less than requested. That’s because of what he claimed were miscalculations and flawed reasonings from the company.

A public hearing with the commissioners’ deliberations will begin November 28th and a decision will be made before the end of the year.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.
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