PUCO creates hearings for Duke Energy's increased rates - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Public hearing for Duke Energy's increased rates

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CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) -

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) scheduled four public hearings in the Tri-state for community members to express their views regarding Duke Energy's efforts to increase rates for electric and natural gas.

On Wednesday's meeting, the street car was a hot topic. Officials say the proposed rate increase is not in response to the utility relocation, and dollars are not being dedicated to the Streetcar Project.

However, a provision is included in the proposal that would affect Cincinnati residents differently than those living outside the city.

"I'm sitting back there just astonished at the percentages that i'm seeing, the money that they're asking. While, you know what? Why can't they tighten their belts like the rest of the people," said Belinda Ward, a resident of Batavia.

These public hearings have been arranged following Duke's decision to file separate application to increate both rates for its customers. Duke is looking to increase electric revenues by $86 million and gas revenues by almost $45 million.

If the requested increase is approved by PUCO, electric bills would increase about 5.1% on average, natural gas bills by 5.6% for the typical residential customer.

"When Duke's revenues drop and they want another rate increase to make up the difference. If we're being encouraged to conserve then where's the benefit?," asked Joe Rennekamp, also of Batavia.

While those against the increase outnumbered those in support, a few people testified in defense of all the things Duke has done for the community.

"To have a successful community, we need strong healthy businesses. And certainly very much appreciate everything duke has done for clermont county," said Dave Gooch, with Park National Bank.

Duke officials say due to low market prices from electric generation and natural gas, the average customer will still pay less for electricity and natural gas than in 2011.

"Although the distribution component of customer bills is going up, customers continue to benefit from lower generation prices for electricity and low commodity prices for natural gas," said Julie Janson, president, Duke Energy Ohio. "In fact, electric and natural gas rates paid by Duke Energy Ohio customers are among the lowest in the state."

As part of the company's natural gas and electric distribution rate cases, the company has asked the PUCO to approve a provision that would enable Duke Energy Ohio to recover relocation costs associated with mass transportation projects from the governmental entity pursuing the project, namely the Cincinnati streetcar. The governmental entity, which would be the City of Cincinnati, could then pay for the project from their own budget or choose to pass the cost to customers within its jurisdictional boundaries.

"Many in our service territory are adamantly opposed to the city of Cincinnati's pursuit of the streetcar and in return are fearful that costs for this project will be passed on to residents outside of Cincinnati proper," said Blair Schroeder with Corporate Communications at Duke.

The evidentiary hearing for the electric rate case will begin on March 25th at the PUCO offices in Columbus. The hearing for the natural gas rate case will begin at the conclusion of the electric rate hearing.

The dates, times and locations for the next hearings are:

Monday, February 25, 2013 at 6:30 p.m.
City Building, City Council Chambers
1 Donham Plaza
Middletown, OH 45042

Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 12:30 p.m.
Cincinnati City Hall, Council Chambers
801 Plum Street
Cincinnati, OH 45202

Customers may also submit comments online or by mail addressed to:

180 East Broad Street
Columbus, OH 43215

Customers should also include the electric and/or natural gas case numbers 12-1682-EL-AIR and 12-1687-GA-AIR.

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