Wyoming Residents Oppose Proposed 29 Percent Energy Rates Increase

Wyoming Residents Oppose Proposed 29 Percent Energy Rates Increase

ROCK SPRINGS — Wyoming residents expressed their opposition to Rocky Mountain Power’s (RMP) historic proposed rate increase of about 29 percent during a Wyoming Public Service Commission public comment hearing in Rock Springs Monday night.

RMP is seeking authorization from the Wyoming Public Service Commission to increase its Wyoming retail electric utility rates by approximately 21.6 percent, which would generate an additional $140.2 million for the company. Additionally, Stacy Splittstoesser, RMP Wyoming Regulatory Affairs Manager, said that the company is also proposing 7.6 percent increase under the Energy Cost Adjustment Mechanism (ECAM) Schedule 95.

Schedule 95 is applicable to all retail tariff customers taking service under the Company’s electric service schedules. The 7.6 percent increase would ultimately generate $74 million in deferred net power costs. This means residents and business owners will see a 29.2 percent increase in utility rates.

Advertisement - Story continues below...

According to written testimony by Joelle R. Steward, RMP’s senior vice president of Regulation and Customer/Community Solutions, approximately $135.4 million of the increase, or 97 percent, is related to resetting the new base for the Energy Cost Adjustment Mechanism (ECAM) for net power costs (NPC).

“Since the Company’s last general rate case (“2020 Rate Case”) net power costs have been climbing annually at unprecedented levels,” Steward said in his testimony. He added that the company has been facing “increasing NPC driven by increases in regional market prices and fuel costs as well as new state and federal environmental compliance environmental requirements.”

Splittstoesser said that this rate increase will recover the difference between the base net power costs and the actual net power costs. Driving factors for the proposed increase also includes increased fuel costs but the main driver is the net power costs, she said. Splittstoesser stated that RMP is seeing unprecedented prices in the open market. 

Splittstoesser added that RMP understands and knows these are large increases.

The company stated that this proposed rate increase would add about $16.42 onto the average residential customer’s monthly bill, however, one Casper resident pointed out that the “average” is based on 709 kilowatt per month for a 1,000 square foot house. Tom Van Cleef, a Casper resident and small business owner, said that the average 1,000 square foot house uses 886 kilowatts per month, and most houses in the state are larger than 1,000 square feet.

Van Cleef added that from a business owner standpoint, smaller businesses will have a hard time absorbing a 20 percent increase. He also said that larger businesses won’t want to come to Wyoming with the higher energy rates, and ultimately the state will lose tax revenue.

“By increasing their rates… RMP will be eviscerating its own customer base,” he said.

Local Opposition

Sweetwater County Commissioner Mary Thoman said that she and the Sweetwater County Commission are “very concerned” about the rate increases for county residents, as well as farmers and ranchers who will have to face rate increases for irrigation.

Thoman additionally pointed out that the ECAM should not be adjusted for net power costs as RMP cannot forecast net power, she said.

Rock Springs Mayor Max Mickelson also spoke in opposition for this rate increase on behalf of the wellbeing of Rock Springs residents. Monday was a hot day in Sweetwater County, and he pointed out that the weather showed the necessity for RMP to provide services at an affordable cost.

He said that the rate increase would have a huge impact on residents’ ability to pay, and could ultimately result in people being hospitalized and even dying from the heat. Mickelson also pointed out that the rate increase would have a negative impact on the city’s ability to provide services for residents.

“If the cost is this high, it’s simply something we can’t pay as citizens and a community,” Mickelson said.

Toni Bate, Rock Springs resident gave a teary-eyed testimony as she wondered how she was going to be able to cover the cost of the increase.

“I live in a house that’s over 120 years old,” Bate said. She said her winter energy bills are already $400 a month.

I don’t know where I’m going to get the money to pay for this.

~ Toni Bate, Rock Springs resident

Rock Springs business owner Lizzy de’Medici pointed out how difficult this will be for small business owners like herself to afford.

“As a small business owner who runs their business out of their rented apartment, a proposed increase of close to 30 percent, not just the 21.6 but the additional percentage, would be catastrophic for the business owners,” she said.

She noted that the rate increases will mean that the cost of goods and services will also have to go up. She said this will also result in difficulty for local governments and schools, but also for the most vulnerable populations being the elderly and poor who already struggle to make ends meet.

Sam Shumway, AARP Wyoming State Director, spoke further about the elderly populations who are on fixed incomes. He pointed out that RMP has a monopoly in Wyoming, leaving residents with few to no other opportunities for power companies.

“I think it’s your job as commissioners to hold RMP accountable,” he told the Wyoming Public Service Commission.

Additionally, de’Medici noted that Rock Springs has a flourishing downtown area as a result of revivification, and she believes this rate increase could kill the resurgence of retail and restaurants.

“It’s going to crush us,” she said. “How does Rocky Mountain Power justify a 30 percent increase based on speculation?”

These were just a few of the Wyoming residents who spoke against the rate increases during the public hearing. The Wyoming Public Service Commission said they will have another public hearing in November in Cheyenne. However, in the meantime residents can send comments to the Commission online on their website.