The state grants the utility companies that operate in West Virginia monopoly power in their areas of operation. It would be silly to have one power company energizing a line on one side of a street and another delivering juice on the other side.
But the state curbs what utilities do through the state Public Service Commission. And the utilities, in turn, fund the costs of their regulators.
And customers fund the utilities.
Currently, the PSC gets 30 cents for every $100 of gross revenue utility companies earn in the state, and 7.5 cents for every $100 worth of property they own.
This gives the PSC $13 million from the revenue fee and $3.79 million from the property fee for a total of almost $13.8 million in operating funds per year.
A couple of decades ago, the commission used some of that money to build a new headquarters in downtown Charleston. Now it finds that the brick and stone exterior of that building is insufficiently attached to the structure itself.
Repairs must be made.
A spokeswoman for the PSC said the commission does not think consumers will face higher utility rates as a result.
"It's cost of doing business for a utility in the state," she said.
Well, OK. But who in the end does cover those costs, which in this case could amount to about $22.5 million over 10 years?