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New Coalition Forms to Challenge Big Rivers’ Proposed Rate Hikes

fair rates 300OWENSBORO, Ky. (5/16/13) – A new coalition launched today to speak out in favor of fair and reasonable utility rates for western Kentucky electricity consumers. Fair Rates Kentucky mobilized after Big Rivers Electric Corp, which sells power to various co-operatives including Kenergy Corp, Jackson Purchase Energy Corporation and Meade County Rural Electric Co-Op., announced plans for a series of rate increases that could dramatically increase utility costs for residential customers, businesses, schools, hospitals and churches.

According to coalition organizers, Big Rivers proposed the massive rate increases after recently losing 70 percent of their consumer base per an agreement reached with local aluminum smelters. Instead of adequately adjusting their business model to meet the new demand, they have requested a $74.5 million base rate increase from the Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC). This increase would be paid for by their rural western Kentucky customers.

Fair Rates Kentucky, jointly founded by Aleris, Domtar and Kimberly-Clark, all of whom have large investment and employee bases in the impacted area, is mounting a grassroots campaign to call attention to the proposed rate increases and make sure that the voices of western Kentucky utility consumers are heard.

“Big Rivers wants to keep operating most of the same power generation capacity and power plants whether there is demand or not,” Kelly Thomas, senior vice president and general manager of Aleris Rolled Products North America. “This just simply isn’t a viable option for Kentucky families and businesses already struggling in tough economic times.”

According to Big Rivers, the first of several rate increases will be implemented as early as August 20, and will cost the average residential consumer nearly $300 more per year—a 23 percent rate increase for most of their customers. The next and potentially even larger increase is scheduled for early next year.

“If Big Rivers is allowed to pass along these planned rate increases this summer and early next year, then Kimberly-Clark’s local power cost to operate our plant could nearly double,” said Dan Lachmann, Mill Manager for Kimberly-Clark’s Owensboro Mill. “Manufacturing is as competitive a business right now as it has ever been and this is not a realistic or sustainable approach to solving the underlying problems at Big Rivers.”

The new coalition is asking those who oppose these rate increases to take action by signing a petition at www.FairRatesKY.com and by contacting Governor Steve Beshear and the Public Service Commission.

“We are simply asking Big Rivers to do what any other business would do when they are faced with market challenges—adapt without forcing their customers to pick up the tab,” said Steve Henry, General Manager with Domtar’s Hawesville facility. “You wouldn't pay for gas that isn't in your car’s tank, nor would you pay for food you aren't going to eat, so why should schools, hospitals, churches, businesses, and residents pay for power plants we aren’t going to use?”

Fair Rates Kentucky is a coalition of western Kentucky residential and business utility consumers who want to pay fair and reasonable rates for electricity. More information is available at www.FairRatesKY.com.

SurfKY News
Information provided by Rachel Bledsoe

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