Power company customers find themselves facing a choice between a really big rock or a rather long hard stretch. A group working to find a way out recommends that the Public Service Commission approve the latter.
It's certainly better than the alternative, but it's not pretty.
As Daily Mail Business Editor Jared Hunt explained this week, Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power spent several hundred million dollars providing service that they have not been able to recover from customers.
Power companies can't provide service at a loss.
Most of the debt comes from unexpectedly large
increases in coal costs in 2008 and 2009.
Despite three rate increases - 10.5 percent in 2009, 7.2 percent in 2010 and 7.3 percent in 2011 - the companies have not been able to recover $311.9 million of those fuel costs.
The companies also have suffered about $64 million in other costs not related to coal prices - $41.5 million in one-time costs and $22.7 million in unpaid bills for power used by Century Aluminum.