Base rates show LPEA needs new leaders

Do you know that La Plata Electric Association’s small-commercial base charges, the charges most small-business owners pay, are now 44 percent higher than other comparable utilities in our region? Take a look at your January bill compared with December’s. You will find that your line item base charge increased.

Because base charges are independent of consumption, they are regressive and penalize smaller consumers. The increases undermine conservation measures and marginalize investments in efficiency and solar net-metering.

Concurrent with these recent changes, LPEA directors passed a policy that promises to make more sizeable increases imminent. Although exact increases for commercial accounts have not been disclosed, LPEA has announced it will more than double residential charges over the next few years. Commercial users can expect similar increases.

Justification for these increases – a cost-of-service study classified as a “proprietary” secret by LPEA. We have requested, and been refused, this study from LPEA three times over the last several months; denied by its CEO, its board and its attorney. During the franchise agreement negotiations, we were told by the board that the cost to supply and maintain electric service to the rural areas of the county is no more than the cost to urban areas. The justification for this statement is the same study we have been denied to review.

LPEA’s directors, some of whom have served on the board more than 20 years, are being challenged by a bloc of candidates who share common goals for LPEA, one of which is making board decisions that affect the profitability of our businesses more transparent. Every one of the incumbent directors being challenged supported the new base-charge increases. They are Jim Formwalt, Jerry McCaw, Bobby Lieb and Herb Brodsky. Their aforementioned challengers are Kirsten Skeehan, Bruce Baizel, Britt Bassett and Heather Erb.

Businesses will be getting an LPEA ballot shortly after April 20. It takes a little more effort to vote as a business because the ballot has to be notarized; the person signing and casting the vote must be authorized to do so. The status quo has got to go. Please take the time to vote.

Lissa Ray