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Commission asks utilities to detail storm actions

The state Public Service Commission wants utility providers to explain how they responded to the June 29 derecho and how they plan to respond to future storms.

On Monday the commission requested state utilities attend a public meeting at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 22, to detail response efforts.

The meeting is part of an ongoing investigation into the utilities' response to the storm, which knocked out power to more than 500,000 statewide. Some customers remained without power for up to two weeks.

The power outages also led to water and phone outages in some areas.

The PSC began the investigation in late July by asking 11 utility companies to answer a series of questions about the storm response.

Utilities filed responses in August detailing the extent of the storm damage.

Appalachian Power and Mon Power reported a total of $172 million in damages following the storm. Frontier Communications estimated repairs to their system would cost $5.8 million; West Virginia American Water reported $750,000 in repair expenses.

While the companies reported the repair costs, the PSC said in its Monday order it would not consider any rate increase requests to cover those costs as part of the investigation in this case.

Any company wishing to cover those costs will have to file a separate case.

The commission also allowed the state Consumer Advocate Division and Steel of West Virginia Inc. to join the investigation. Joining the case will allow representatives of the division and the steel company also to ask questions of utility providers.

Last month, PSC staff attorneys asked the commission to consider granting public hearings. They said doing so would give utility customers the chance to express concerns about what went wrong or appreciation for what went right.

Commissioners agreed.

"Like staff, the Commission is interested in customers' perceptions of the utilities' responses following the storms and the Commission has read the written comments from customers," the Monday order said.

"The Commission is well aware of the large number of customers, over 500,000 in the State, who suffered outages during extreme high temperatures and for long durations," the order said. "The Commission knows that customers suffered hardships because of the outages."

The public will be able to sit in on the Oct. 22 meeting at PSC headquarters on Brooks Street in Charleston. Video will be live-streamed at www.psc.state.wv.us.

At that meeting, commissioners will decide whether to hold additional public meetings across the state.

Contact writer Jared Hunt at jared.hunt@dailymail.com or 304-348-5148. 


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