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Biggest electric utility in Wyoming sues regulators over partial denial of rate hike

Rocky Mountain Power

This story is part of our new Quick Hits series. This series will bring you breaking news and short updates from throughout the state.

Pacificorp, which owns the largest electric utility serving Wyoming, has sued state regulators.

The parent company Rocky Mountain Power is asking the U.S. District Court to overturn the Wyoming Public Service Commissioners’ decision in January to only approve a part of the company’s proposed electricity rate increases. The commission rejected part of the increase that would have helped pay for things like higher fuel costs to the company and rising insurance costs partly due to wildfires linked to their infrastructure.

In the suit, the utility company claims that decision is costing them over $23 million. Pacificorp, the parent company of Rocky Mountain Power, says that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) sets the costs associated with holding power reserves in case there is not enough power in the grid from renewable energy. The company claims commissioners’ rate order shifted those reserve costs unfairly to the company’s non-Wyoming power users. Notably, the utility serves six states in the intermountain West.

The named defendants are the three commissioners of the Wyoming Public Service Commission in their official capacity.

The rate hike order 

Last year, Rocky Mountain Power asked for two rate hikes. The one central to this lawsuit is a 21.6 percent increase, or $140.2 million, to its base rates – a permanent hike. The Public Service Commission only approved an 8.3 percent hike, or $54 million, in early December, which was reflected in customers’ bills in January.

PacifiCorp says the full rate hike was needed to adjust for the FERC requirement to hold a certain amount of electricity in reserve for system emergencies. This relates to renewable energy so that supply and demand are in balance. The lawsuit alleges that the model that the commission used to approve a partial rate hike ignores the FERC requirement.

The Wyoming Public Service Commission justified the partial rate hike by saying Wyoming customers would have to pay for other state consumers' investment in renewable energy like wind and solar power.

Kamila has worked for public radio stations in California, New York, France and Poland. Originally from New York City, she loves exploring new places. Kamila received her master in journalism from Columbia University. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring the surrounding areas with her two pups and husband.
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