Black Hills Proposes Staggering Rate Increases

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

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By Gazette Assistant Publisher/Editor Nicholas Trandahl

At the August meeting of the Upton Town Council, City Clerk/ Treasurer Kelley Millar informed the Council and those present that Black Hills Energy (BHE) has requested rate increases for the corporation’s custom- ers throughout Wyoming. Clerk Millar explained that BHE’s proposed increases need to be approved by the Wyoming Public Service Commission before they go into are imposed on BHE’s loyal customers.

The application for the rate increases (an average increase of 17.28% statewide) was filed on June 3rd, 2019, and the very next day an order of suspension was issued for a required six-month period of investigation. However, this six-month suspension would not inhibit the Public Service Commission from approving the application.

Upton residential customers would see an increase of 19.74% to their energy bills and Upton small general service users would see a 25.5% increase. Though Upton’s rate increases would be hard to swallow for many BHE customers, certain Gillette users could see increases of 71.49% for residential customers and 73.97% for small general service customers!

Upton municipalities aren’t opposing the rate increases from BHE alone, however. The Wyoming Office of Consumer Advocate has taken up the torch against BHE, representing Wyoming customers in legal opposition to the increases. The Office of Consumer Advocate has sent a letter to the executive director of the Wyoming Association of Municipalities, a lobbying group of which the Town of Upton is a member, and the letter has since spread to municipalities across the State of Wyoming.

Councilman Joe Watt stated that Upton needed to formally object to the increases, and City Superintendent Mark Lindstrom agreed, stating that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get Upton’s name out there early as a voice of opposition to the rate hikes.

Upton City Attorney Mark Hughes cautioned that it would probably be meaningless to object, explaining that objections to these increases rarely are successful.

Superintendent Lindstrom rebutted that a formal objection would be letting Upton’s taxpayers know that Upton’s leadership is opposed to increases. Lindstrom also expressed that he’d like to hear BHE’s justifications for such a staggering increase.

Clerk Millar explained that BHE has stated the reason for the increase was to streamline their services and reliably recover in- vestments. City Attorney Hughes opined, however, that it was likely to benefit BHE’s shareholders.

“It’s at the expense of us [Upton BHE custom- ers],” remarked Clerk Miller. She will draft a formal protest letter to the rate increases for submission to the Office of Consumer Advocate to go on record.

To voice your concerns to Black Hills Energy di- rectly about their proposed rate hikes, go to https:// www.blackhillsenergy. com/contact-customer-service or call 888-890-5554.

Article courtesy of the Weston County Gazette.

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