Lawmakers Scrutinize Ice Storm Response

The ice storm left electric utilities with a $250 million bill that someone has to pay.

There was word in Frankfort on Thursday that some of that expense could be paid out of your pocket. That came as lawmakers held a hearing over the response to the disaster.

Kentucky’s Public Service Commission is now expecting requests from utilities to pass on some of the expense of restoring power to more than 770,000 to the customers. But the amount customers could pay isn’t known.

“We don’t know the answers until we do the review,” said Ky. Public Service Commission Executive Director Jeff Derouen.

That review was the subject of a 30 minute hearing before state lawmakers Thursday morning.

“Our objective is to examine the way utilities prepared for and responded and the way Kentucky responded and prepared for these two disasters,” Derouen told lawmakers in a state House committee meeting, speaking of both the ice storm and Hurricane Ike’s impact on the state last fall.

The PSC says they will examine all aspects of the ice storm response including communication between customers and the utility.

Many electric customers were frustrated by their inability to contact their electric provider to report outages or to find out when the power might be back on.

“When they tried to call, they just got an automated call. They were not getting any kind of updates,” said Rep. Jim Gooch, D-Providence.

Privately owned utilities such as KU will likely seek higher rates, as they did in the ice storm of 2003. A PSC spokesman says KU was granted permission to recover $4 million over a 5 year period. Electric Co-ops will follow a different path for reimbursement.

"A very large portion of the damages to the Co-ops, which represent a very large portion of overall damage, will not flow through a rate payer, rather be placed through disaster funds,” said PSC spokesman Andrew Melnykovych

The PSC says their study of the ice storm response will be available by late summer.

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