CASPER, Wyo. — The Wyoming Public Service Commission will accept public comment on Rocky Mountain Power’s proposed electric rate increase on Thursday, Aug. 24 at 5:30 p.m. in the Thyra Thomson State Office Building.
Located at 444 W. Collins Drive, the state building is near the Natrona County High School football field. Go to the Roundhouse Conference Room 3024.
According to a public notice announcing the Casper hearing, anyone interested may be heard in person, by video or by telephone conference. Attend by Zoom meeting and participate at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/9933449233. Attend by telephone and participate by dialing 1-669-900-9128 or 1-253-215-8782 (Meeting ID: 993 344 9233).
Convinced the rate increase as proposed holds significant and crippling implications for Natrona County, its residents and its businesses, Advance Casper has prepared talking points for its members who attend the Thursday public hearing.
“When local Wyoming businesses are hurt or fail, Wyoming people and Communities are hurt and fail,” the document states.
Rocky Mountain Power is the largest utility in Wyoming, and it’s seeking a combined 29% electricity rate increase that would impact thousands of Wyoming people and businesses, including those in Natrona County.
The electric power provider has asked the public service commission to increase rates by 21.6% in addition to the 7.6% increase for the Energy Cost Adjustment Mechanism put in effect Aug. 1 on an interim basis.
Combined, the average household customer’s monthly bill would increase by $19.94, the company estimates.
Rocky Mountain Power’s application was submitted to the Wyoming Public Service Commission around March 1. If approved as proposed, the new rates — which vary between residential, business, agricultural and industrial customers — would take effect Jan. 1. The increase would generate an extra $140.2 million per year for Rocky Mountain Power, which is part of the larger northwest power company PacifiCorp.
Economic development leaders in Natrona County are worried about the adverse impact Rocky Mountain Power’s proposed historic rate increase will have on local businesses.
According to the Advance Casper talking points document, for some local business, commercial and industrial users, the rate sought by Rocky Mountain Power will be 33% — a full one-third increase.
“This rate increase will be devastating to Wyoming citizens and households, Wyoming small businesses and industries, Wyoming schools and communities, Wyoming’s economy and government services — and will in fact reduce the customer base for Rocky Mountain Power,” reads the talking points document provided to Oil City News by Advance Casper CEO Justin Farley. “Any business faced with a 20%, much less a 33%, increase in any budgetary line item will be hard pressed to remain profitable.”
According to Advance Casper, a 33% increase in electricity costs will put most businesses on the edge of insolvency or force them to increase prices on goods and services that will drive less consumer demand for their products and services.
For retail or food-related businesses, with higher overhead costs, a 20% increase could reduce the net profit to under 5%.
“A 29–33% rate hike will drive many retail and food-related businesses into insolvency, no matter what they do with consumer pricing,” the document reads.
Higher energy prices will force consumers to spend less, compounding the negative impact on businesses — generating more unemployment and business closures.
Advance Casper’s talking points are broken down into the subtopics of business; households; schools, local governments and critical services; and industries such as oil and gas.
The tax base will be damaged and shrink, and communities not served by Rocky Mountain Power will also be hurt, the Advance Casper document argues.
Talking points go on to point out “significant flaws” in the power company’s arguments and presentations, and say Rocky Mountain Power’s estimated cost is “egregiously and deceptively low.” They end by accusing the power company of failing to meet fiduciary and regulatory requirements.
“By admission of RMP’s own CEO Mr. Hoogeveen, as well as RMP’s staff, filings, and public statements, RMP has failed to meet the requirements of the Prudence of Investment and Expenses standard, or the burden of proof regarding known and measurable costs as required to justify a rate increase of any kind,” the document states.
Due to the significance of the proposed rate increase, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon has asked about additional public hearings, and the commission has assured him it plans to hold additional hearings for public comment over the coming weeks, according to a news release from the governor’s office.