Michigan lawmakers introduce legislation to stop pending electric rate hike

Courtesy:  Senator Debbie Stabenow’s Office

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Congressman Dan Benishek (MI-1), and Congressman Gary Peters (MI-14) today introduced legislation that would require additional oversight by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), allowing the agency to stop a pending $100 million annual electric rate increase for families and businesses in the Upper Peninsula.

This legislation follows a recent regulatory decision made by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) that would force consumers in the Upper Peninsula to pay for 99 percent of the Presque Isle Power Plant’s operating costs. This decision by NERC upended an earlier FERC finding that UP customers should be responsible for 14 percent of the power plant’s operating costs. FERC shares oversight responsibilities and has a mandate to consider utility cost allocation issues.

The POWER Act would require FERC to review, analyze, and disapprove any NERC decision that resulted in unjust and unreasonable rate increases on families and businesses. This new authority would provide FERC a direct path to overturn unfair cost shifts resulting from NERC actions.

“Seniors, small businesses, and families in the UP should not be forced to pay for unjust and unreasonable rate increases, while the benefits of this plant continue to be shared with communities in other states,” said Stabenow. “This bill will help keep utility costs from increasing for Michigan families and seniors and keep the doors of small businesses open by creating a new pathway to make sure everyone is paying their fair share. I don’t expect my neighbor to pay my electric bill each month. No one should be forced to pay for unjust utility costs.”

“Residents of the Upper Peninsula-from families to seniors to schools and small businesses-can’t be expected to shoulder the burden of unfair rate increases,” said Rep. Benishek. “These rate increases are unacceptable and I am committed to finding a solution that will ensure that residents of the Upper Peninsula are not forced to choose between keeping the lights on and putting food on their table this winter.”

“With winter just around the corner, it is critical that Michigan families have access to reliable and affordable electricity in every part of the state,” said Rep. Gary Peters. “This bipartisan bill will help ensure that utility costs are distributed in a fair and equitable way.”

Last month, Sen. Stabenow and Rep. Benishek called for a moratorium on NERC’s decision and asked FERC to consider the Michigan Public Service Commission’s complaint that the resulting rate increases for people in the UP are not just and reasonable. Earlier this week, FERC announced it would delay the UP rate increases that were previously expected to begin on December 1 in order to further investigate the problem.