Editor’s note: The Pike County Commissioners gave the following testimony at the Feb. 8 Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission public hearing on Pike County Light & Power’s request to increase natural gas bills by 17.3% and electric bills by 19.7%. Please see last week’s story “Residents and officials object to ‘sharp and sudden’ utility increases” at pikecountycourier.com.
Dear Members of the Commission:
Good afternoon. I’m Matt Osterberg, Chairman of the Pike County Commissioners. On behalf of my fellow Commissioners, Ron Schmalzle and Steve Guccini, I want to thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today about the requested increases for both gas and electricity rates by Pike County Light & Power Company.
As stated in our November request to you for this hearing, we firmly object to the rate increases as they are currently proposed. Pike County families and small businesses simply cannot bear the financial burdens of these sharp and sudden increases such as the requested 17.3% (electric) and 19.7% (gas) rates.
In Pike County, the negative impacts would be felt by 4,800 residential and commercial electric customers and 1,200 residential and commercial gas customers.
Further, speaking specifically on behalf of county government, such increases would result in an additional expense of about $10,000 annually to continue basic operations at the Pike County Administration Building, which is only one of several necessary county facilities that serve the needs of our residents. Taxpayers do not deserve and cannot afford to take such as hit.
We believe the scope of the requested increases are unreasonable to residential and commercial customers, and taxpayers, particularly as negative economic impacts of COVID-19 continue to resonate in our rural community.
It is never a good time to impose such large increases of utility expenses. But during the time of a pandemic and considering the economic struggles that it has wreaked on many people in our community, we believe the pause button must be pressed on these requests by PCLP.
We understand that PCLP may have experienced increased expenses and it needs to compensate its employees and upgrade equipment, however, passing those costs directly onto customers is not the answer. It is unfair to place such burdens squarely on the shoulders of local families and businesses.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and Pike County Light & Power Company must come up with an alternative plan that reduces these unreasonable rate increases. You must consider less jarring options that would allow families, businesses, and government to budget appropriately for future utility expenses.
We propose that you consider a more balanced approach to rate adjustments, such as allowing necessary, and more reasonable, rate increases to occur incrementally over a longer time period to help ease the strain.
Again, we object to the requested rate increases as they are currently proposed. And further request that PCLP provide its customers, and the public, with clearer justification for any future increases prior to any decisions.
We appreciate this opportunity to speak to you today on behalf of the families and businesses served by PCPL in Pike County. And we thank you for considering our perspective as we all work toward reasonable solutions that satisfy all members of our community and support the local economy, especially during such trying times.
Matthew M. Osterberg, Chairman
Ronald R. Schmalzle, Vice Chairman
Steven R. Guccini, Commissioner
Gary R. Orben, Chief Clerk, Attest