PRINCETON, WV (WVNS) – The second of four public meetings across the state regarding a proposed state-wide rate increase for energy bills was held in Princeton Monday night.

The proposed increase would raise energy costs by about $13 a month or $156 per year for the average West Virginian, more or less depending on how much power they use.

Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power, the electric companies, argue the rate hike is necessary to help them recoup over $300 million dollars that they spent on fuel this year.

But folks in Princeton said they can’t handle yet another rise in prices for something they need to survive.

State delegate Marty Gearheart, who serves Mercer County, said raising electric bills even higher would only hurt the county.

“We have a number of people who are not well off, that struggle to make their monthly expenses, including their power bill. And I think it would cause a number of people to either have to relocate, or move somewhere else, or move in with family or something to consolidate their bills.”

State delegate Marty Gearheart

And Gearheart said it’s not just individual homeowners that will be affected, but local small businesses, who are still trying to recover from a pandemic and deal with inflation across the board.

“It appears that our economy is starting to turn a corner, and so in order for us to continue to move toward prosperity here, we’re going to have to have expenses including utility rates that are reasonable,”

State delegate Marty Gearheart

Gearheart said he feels Appalachian Power’s proposed increases are not reasonable.

The West Virginia Public Service Commission will ultimately decide whether to fully approve, partially approve, or deny Appalachian Power’s request to raise rates. Chairman of the Public Service Commission Charlotte Lane said hearing from folks at public meetings like the one Monday night is crucial in their decision-making process.

“We want people to come out to these public hearings to tell us what they think about this increase and how it will affect them,” Lane told 59News.

One potential solution, proposed by the West Virginia Coal Association, is to allow Appalachian Power to use more coal energy, which is the cheapest form of energy to manufacture. Lane says the P-S-C is looking into that as a possible solution as well.

You can make a comment online as to whether you are for or against the rate increase, on the Public Service Commission’s website, to comment on this case specifically, choose “ApCo/WPCo Expanded Net Energy Cost” from the dropdown menu.