Friday, September 26, 2008

Greed is Greed

“Rules are rules and greed is greed. What a sad world we live in!”

That’s not my quote. I read it in one of what must be thousands of citizens’ letters to the State Corporation Commission. The writer was opposed to three rate hikes that Appalachian Power Company presently has pending before the SCC.

Only one of the requests presently remains open for public comment.

This particular request asks for a 23.9 percent increase in rates. That means if your light bill is $100 a month now it will go to $123.90 if the rate increase is approved.

I was on the SCC website for an unrelated matter when the sheer numbers of APCO opposition letters caught my eye.

I glanced through several hundred of them. Of those, I saw only one letter in favor of the rate increase, and that was from a physician who worried that he would be in the middle of an important procedure only to have the power go out. I can see where that might be a concern.

Many of the letters are form letters, stating only “I oppose this rate increase.” There are also several petitions, each with hundreds of signatures.

A lot of the opposition comes from far southwestern Virginia. Folks down there appear to have organized against higher electric rates. At least one Board of Supervisors for one of Virginia’s poorer counties has put in a request for no rate increase, too.

Heartfelt letters, some written by hands so shaky the writing is barely legible, caught my eye as I flipped through the documents online.

I’ll let some of these folks speak for themselves:

“If Appalachian Power gets an increase many of us will either stop taking our medication or freeze this winter.”

“I live on a fixed income of $530.60 as do a lot of widows and widowers.”

“I am 81 years old and my wife is 76. We both have been very ill here lately. My wife has really had a tough time of it. With several cancer operations. We are both retired and social security only pays us small checks. We cannot pay any more money for electric power.”

“I am married with 2 children and my husband is disabled... currently we live on 652.00 a month. I can barely afford my normal light bill of $70 a month, let alone have to pay for an increase. My light bill this past month was $102 and I had to forgo my car payment just to be able to cover my light bill... barely surviving now.”

“We are a one income family with two children. With the economic problems everyone is facing we simply cannot afford to pay more for basics such as electricity.”

“My wife and I are both disabled and we are living on a low fixed income. We would like to ask (no beg) you not to approve the increased rate that Appalachian power co. is asking for. Because of the high prices for gas, food and medicine, etc. it is hard for people like us to make ends meet.”

“Me and my husband are 72 and 73 years of age. He has terminal asbestos related cancer. Our income has not let us fill our oil tank for three years. We do not get any assistance. We relied on electric oil filled radiators to get us through the last two winters. We cannot afford the large increases. He will have to have more heat this winter if he survives. I do not know what will happen if you pass this increase on to people like us.”

I wouldn’t want to be an SCC examiner, responsible for reading all of these letters and making a determination that somebody isn’t going to like.

Hard economic times don’t just hit folks who have lost their homes due to nefarious banking methods or who have lost money in the stock market. When the bad hits, it hits everyone, and the folks who have the least often end up on the worst end of hard situations.

They’re also the ones we don’t hear much about, which is why I wanted to share some of these comments with you. The current economic climate is having a terrible effect on the poor, which in this country includes an awful lot of elderly people. I wanted to get that out in the open.

If you are interested in commenting on Appalachian’s proposed 23.9 percent increase, pro or con, any easy way is to visit http://www.scc.virginia.gov/case/PublicComments.aspx and look for case number PUE-2008-00046. The SCC provides a form for easy commentary on cases where it solicits public opinion.

Be aware that the form asks for your name, address and telephone number. This information will be made available to the power company and will also be available on the same part of the SCC website where I found the above comments.

You can also submit written comments to Joel H. Peck, Clerk, State Corporation Commission, Document Control Center, P.O. Box 2118, Richmond, VA 23218-2118. Be sure to reference the case number PUE-2008-00046 in your comments.


This column originally appeared in the September 24, 2008 edition of The Fincastle Herald.

3 comments:

  1. Those letters are so heartbreaking.
    It's a sad state that the elderly live the way they do, barely able to afford the necessities.

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  2. Thank you for posting this. My heart breaks for these precious people. I sure hope things turn around in time.

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  3. Just remember - the greedy are those who specialise in getting round the rules so they can consume more and more - and then more. In a society like ours, rules don't even apply to the greedy - those poster boys for consumerism who are interested in just one thing: getting rich.

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