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PSC lowers rates for Alabama Power customers, Dunn votes ‘no’

YH Public Service Commission

Alabama Public Service Commissioners Twinkle Cavanaugh and Jeremy Oden voted today to give Alabama consumers some relief by reducing Alabama Power Company’s allowed rate of return by the largest amount in almost 25 years.

Cavanaugh said Alabama Power customers could expect to see a savings of between $30 and $110 on their power bills each year depending on their electricity usage and other variables.

“While Alabama Power Company felt their current rate structure was justifiable, our job as commissioners is to do what’s fair for all, and our hearings showed that consumers deserve some relief in the bills they pay,” Cavanaugh said.

This is the second consecutive vote by the PSC that has resulted in a lowering of revenues and rates for one of Alabama’s regulated utilities. The Commission voted in July to lower the rate of return for Mobile Gas Company, resulting in almost $2.7 million in annual savings for their customers.

Oden said the rate reductions were tough, but necessary.

“Our actions today represent a victory for Alabama families. This Commission was tough on Mobile Gas. We were even tougher on Alabama Power… We have lowered Alabama Power’s potential revenues by up to $65 million per year and ensured that electric rates will remain stable for both 2013 and 2014.”

The one notable “no” vote today on the three member Commission was cast by Commissioner Terry Dunn, who has been at odds with his fellow commissioners since their latest round of utility reviews began. Dunn sided repeatedly with environmental groups who were pushing for the Commission to launch into formal legal proceedings, rather than open public hearings. He has said in numerous interviews that he was fighting for consumers, but will now likely have a hard time reconciling his rhetoric with his vote against one of the largest rate decreases in recent memory.

The reduction occurred following a series of public rate review hearings conducted across the state, during which commissioners heard almost 24 hours of testimony from dozens of consumers, various interest groups, business owners, utility stakeholders, the Alabama Attorney General’s Consumer Division and others. The changes voted on today will go into effect in January.

Commissioner Cavanaugh said that convening formal hearings would have required participants to hire legal counsel in order to participate in the process. She believes many of the individuals and groups who took part in the open, public process would have had their voices silenced.

“In addition to testimony from Alabama Power officials, the commission heard from groups as diverse as the Tea Party, labor unions, public policy think tanks, and even environmental groups supporting Obama’s War on Coal with whom I vehemently disagree,” Cavanaugh said. “Anyone who looks with an unbiased eye will agree that this has been the most open and transparent process in the history of the Alabama Public Service Commission.”

Michael Sznajderman, a spokesman for Alabama Power, told the Montgomery Advertiser the company was “disappointed” by the PSC’s decision to lower its rates.