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    Due to covid-19, PSC rate hearings will be virtual

Who does the PSC really work for?

Regulators’ hearing rules work against the public interest

By RICK BRUNDRETT
Special to the Chronicle

State regulators have made it difficult for Dominion ratepayers to be heard.
The Public Service Commission on Oct. 1 scheduled 3 virtual public hearings last week on a 7.7% Dominion rate hike request.
Yet the PSC gave Dominion till Oct. 23 to notify to its 753,000 customers in Lexington and 23 other counties of the virtual hearings due to covid-19 restrictions.
That gave ratepayers who want to speak at the hearings only 16 days to sign up and prepare to comment on Dominion’s 274-page proposal including exhibits. 
About 200 individuals – less than 1% of the total ratepayers – had registered.
Office of Regulatory Staff spokesman Ron Aiken said Dominion residential customers will pay $8.20 a month until 2039 for a failed $9 billion nuclear fiasco.
Dominion says it will not cover any nuclear costs with its latest rate request. It wants a 7.75% rate hike to raise $178 million for other expenses and profit to share with its stockholders. 
The average residential monthly bill will rise by $9.68 to $131.99.
PSC spokesman Rob Bockman said the PSC on Oct. 5 began publicizing the hearing schedule. By law, the PSC had to give at least 30 days’ notice.
Asked how early Dominion customers began registering to speak, Bockman did not know.
Those allowed to speak are limited to a 3 minutes and under oath.
Bockman was asked why the PSC waited till Oct. 1 to schedule the hearings since Dominion submitted its rate hike request Aug. 14. 
Bockman said only the PSC had “no comment.”
State lawmakers elect the 7 PSC members and pay them $132,071 a year.
For 9 years the PSC routinely approved rate increases for 2 SC Electric & Gas nuclear reactors that failed and were abandoned.
Under public criticism, lawmakers in 2018 lowered SCE&G rates 15%. But Dominion customers will pay off $1.87 billion in nuclear costs for 20 years.
Under state law, the PSC has until Feb. 15 to approve, amend or reject the request.
Dominion said it wants the rate hike to start in March.
   Brundrett is news edit
or of The Nerve. Contact him at 803-254-4411 or rick@thenerve.org.

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