Haslam Bill to Help For-Profit Utilities Gets Final Approval

A Haslam administration initiative that could result in annual rate increases for local customers of for-profit utilities like Tennessee American Water and Chattanooga Gas is on its way to the governor, reports the Chattanooga TFP.
Senators gave final approval to the bill Monday on a 29-1 vote. The House passed the bill last month.
….Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, called Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s utility bill (SB197) a “continuing part of the administration’s top-to-bottom reforms.”
The legislation has drawn concerns from State Attorney General Bob Cooper’s office that the Tennessee Regulatory Authority would no longer effectively protect consumers from monopolies.
Among other things, the bill would allow the TRA to approve “trackers” for companies that allow them to pass along some costs, such as fuel, automatically on to consumers.
The bill also authorizes the TRA to approve “alternative methods” for utility rate reviews and cost recoveries instead of full-blown rate cases.
In a rate case, cities, businesses or the attorney general’s Consumer Advocate Division can intervene if they believe the hikes go beyond a utility’s legal ability to earn a reasonable profit.
Cooper’s office said in a memo that utilities had overstated their rate requests by as much as 60 percent over the past 10 years. The office said the rate cases protect consumers against unwarranted increases.
“What this does in our opinion is make it more likely that rates will increase for business and households,” Assistant Attorney General Vance Broemel told a House panel last month.

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