In Oklahoma, Empire District Electric Customers Oppose Rate Hike

A proposed electric rate increase by a Missouri power company (Cause No. PUD 201500379) may raise the bottom line on monthly bills by $45 for some Oklahoma residents living near the state border.

“It will have a great impact, especially [on] those (individuals) on a fixed income,” Fairland City Clerk Cheryl Pelham commented to Tulsa World of the $4.7 million rate increase requested by Empire District Electric. “People will have to evaluate if they can buy groceries or have electricity each month,” she said.

In Oklahoma, Empire provides electricity to around 4,600 customers, according to the local news outlet – including almost everyone in Fairland.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission pegged the proposed rate hike at $42.62. What’s more, the commission believes, the average commercial customer will pay $34.19 more every month; and the typical industrial customer will see a whopping $21,545 extra on the bottom line.

Fairland Schools Superintendent Mark Alexander testified, according to Tulsa World, that the increase would hurt his district. “Our electric bills may go up 30 percent,” he said.

Empire has made over $670 million in capital improvements to serve customers since 2011, according to the utility, which made its case for the rate hike. Some of those improvements in Oklahoma include a multi-year, multi-million-dollar upgrade project in Welch that involved replacing 27 miles of electrical transmission line; as well as rebuilding and system hardening related to a tornado that hit Quapaw, a town of 900 residents about 20 miles southwest of Joplin Missouri, in April 2014.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission has until October 24 to determine if additional hearings are required to either accept or reject the rate increase. Empire has revealed that the utility is not opposed to a phase-in of new rates.

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