Letter To The Editor: Rocky Mountain Power Wants to Take Inflation from Bad to Worse

Dear editor: Rocky Mountain Power, the Utah-based utility, wants to increase electricity rates in Wyoming by as much as 30% to pay for their own corporate budget mismanagement.  They even want Wyoming ratepayers to pay an emissions tax in Washington State.

CS
CSD Staff

October 18, 20234 min read

Powerlines 10 18 23

Dear editor: 

With inflation at levels not seen since the 1970’s, sticking to a family budget is harder than ever. Families and small businesses across Wyoming are working overtime to make hard decisions and stick to them.

Rocky Mountain Power, the state’s largest electric utility, is exercising no such self-control. The Utah-based utility wants to increase electricity rates in Wyoming by as much as 30% to pay for their own corporate budget mismanagement.  They even want Wyoming ratepayers to pay an emissions tax in Washington State.

The COVID pandemic, conflict in Ukraine, and decades of out-of-control federal spending sparked inflation.  Energy and fuel costs were particularly volatile in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and may increase again following the terrorist attacks in Israel.  While these events are far beyond Wyoming’s control, we do have it in our power to stop making it worse on our budgets. Rocky Mountain Power’s request is wrong and should be denied by the Public Service Commission.

Rocky Mountain Power decided to follow the adage of never letting a crisis go to waste.  After intentional management decisions to accelerate its transition to renewable energy sources, and to transport that energy to the West Coast, now Rocky Mountain Power asks Wyoming to pay for their poor decisions, their poor planning, and the environmental wish list of other states.  Rocky Mountain Power exaggerates the inflation-caused impacts to energy markets to join the great national pastime of blaming natural gas and coal for all that ails us.

In a recent email to its residential customers, Rocky Mountain Power claimed their proposed increases are “almost entirely due to significant spikes in the costs of natural gas and coal.”  The word “almost” does a lot of heavy lifting there. 

Rocky Mountain Power has experienced inflationary pressure like all businesses, but they ask you to ignore your lying eyes that today’s natural gas and coal prices are some of the lowest in years.  Natural gas prices have dropped back to similar levels as 2019 and cheaper than 2018. In fact, natural gas was cheaper in September of 2023 than it was in September of 2010.   Rocky Mountain Power wants to use the relatively brief spike in prices following the Russian invasion as cover to permanently raise rates.

Despite their admission that they are already empowered to temporarily charge customers for costs from unusual price spikes in 2022, Rocky Mountain Power proposes that new base rates be set forever into the future based on those 2022 spikes.  Rates will only continue to rise if every new temporary price pressure sets the new baseline.  Every organization that has filed opposition to the rate proposal has challenged Rocky Mountain Power’s forecasted cost claims.  The PSC should take heed.

Rocky Mountain Power left a few things out in their recent sales pitch to customers. Chief among these are the facts surrounding their management decision to pour over $6 billion into infrastructure projects to bring wind energy to the West Coast.  Their proposal asks Wyoming’s families and businesses to cover nearly half of that price tag.  Decisions like these force Rocky Mountain Power into the higher “spot market,” purchasing energy on very short-term contracts instead of cheaper, long-term deals with Wyoming gas producers.

Also missing from their courtesy note is any explanation about that part of their rate increase that will flow to Washington State’s general fund to pay for that state’s greenhouse gas emissions tax; or that they want to pay for one-time fuel switching projects with new rates that last forever.  Instead, they make a convoluted case that their inflated cost estimates are somehow less inflated because they are spending so much on renewable infrastructure.  It makes no sense.

Rocky Mountain Power’s rate request will increase costs for Wyoming consumers. It will charge Wyoming customers for the renewable energy ambitions of West Coast states. And it will make the hard decisions  faced by Wyoming families and small businesses even harder. They should be sent back to the drawing board to sharpen their pencils. The Public Service Commission is the ultimate decision-maker, and I urge everyone to call 307-777-7427 or wpsc_comments@wyo.gov and ask them to say no to the Rocky Mountain Power rate increase.

Sincerely,

Pete Obermueller

President of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming

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