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Rocky Mountain Power’s rate hike request cut by nearly half

Attorney Ivan Williams, Chair Mary Throne, Commissioner Mike Robinson, and Deputy Chair Chriss Petrie from the Public Service Commission at a public hearing in Casper Aug. 24 (Stew Dyer / Oil City News)

CASPER, Wyo. — The Wyoming Public Service Commission, or PSC, delivered an oral decision on Tuesday, significantly trimming Rocky Mountain Power’s proposed rate hike.

The utility aimed for a $140.2 million annual increase, a substantial 21.6%. However, the PSC’s decision only allows for an $80 million hike, approximately 57% of the requested amount.

Commission Chair Mary Throne explained the decision, noting, “The company’s use of the aurora model in this case did not carry the company’s burden of proof to justify base net power costs of $354,577,253.”

Fuel Cost Sharing Remains Unchanged

Contrary to the utility’s wishes, the commission maintained the existing cost-sharing model for fuel cost overruns. Wyoming customers and the utility will continue splitting these costs 80% to 20%, respectively.

“I should note that Commissioner Robinson still supports 70/30,” Throne said.

The commission also reduced Rocky Mountain Power’s maximum rate of return on investments from 9.5% to 9.35%, against the company’s request for 10.3%.

Rob Joyce, acting director of Sierra Club’s Wyoming Chapter, emphasized the community’s role, stating, “Community members turned out to voice their concerns … and that made all the difference in the decision.”

The rate increase faced extensive opposition, prompting statewide public hearings.

Commission’s Stance on Communication

Throne addressed the utility’s role in public communication.

“The Commission’s job is not to explain the company’s application to the public, that is the company’s role; our job is to consider the comments and the evidence in front of us and to make a decision based on the record,” Throne said. “I would just encourage the company to take to heart the public comments of concerns expressed by elected officials and regular citizens alike in this case, and consider them when developing a communications plan and strategy in any future rate case.”

A detailed statement of the decision is expected by year’s end, but until then Rocky Mountain Power will submit a compliance filing with the commission, according to company spokesman Dave Eskelsen.

“We will take the decision and run some analysis, we will use that to develop a compliance filing, and the commission will use that to develop its final decision. Then we will be able to talk about the effects the decision will have,” Eskelsen said, emphasizing the process can take several weeks.

Meanwhile, audio recordings of the deliberations are available on the Public Service Commission’s website.

“I again want to thank everybody for all of the hard work on this case. Excellent witnesses, excellent quality, legal work, incredible staff commitment, and again [I] want to thank the public for their vigorous participation in this process,” Throne said.